Riders protest service cuts at the December board meeting (Photo AP)
Riders will lose their voice on the MTA board next month when six members will be silenced because state lawmakers never got around to renewing legislation authorizing them.
At a time when the MTA is considering devastating service cuts, the six members representing rider and worker interests will be booted on Jan. 1 “Renew them as soon as possible,” said Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign, which helped push through the original legislation. “It’s a loss for millions of riders everyday that they are not officially board members.
State legislation adopted in 1994 allowed for six members to sit on the MTA board for 18-month terms to represent the public. The representatives can’t vote, but they are outspoken in prodding officials to respond to problems and explain cryptic materials.
“We see the strengths and weaknesses in the system and know what has to be done,” said Andrew Albert, one of the nonvoting members.
The legislation has been renewed three times since it was first adopted, and bills reauthorizing it were introduced in Albany during the summer. But the legislation stalled in both the Assembly and the Senate, and it will sunset at the end of the month for the first time in 15 years.
“I’m very concerned that my membership’s voice will be muffled,” said Israel Rivera, incoming secretary treasurer for the Transport Workers Local 100. “We will be paying the price.”
Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate Majority, wasn’t familiar with the legislation when asked about it, but said that recent rule changes in Albany will allow leaders to get bills passed faster. “It could move quickly,” Shafran said.
A MTA spokesman declined comment. The board next meets Jan. 25.