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Feb 23, 2010 5:47 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Local leaders speak out against MTA service cuts

Feb 23, 2010 5:47 PM

Local politicians and business leaders gathered in Riverhead on Friday to protest what they said is a pattern of mistreatment and neglect of eastern Long Island by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority—in short, too many taxes and not enough trains.

At a press conference held at Digger O’Dell’s Irish Pub on West Main Street and organized by New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, representatives from the five East End towns and Brookhaven Town called for the repeal of the MTA payroll tax, and spoke out against Long Island Rail Road service cuts to the East End that the MTA first proposed in January.

The speakers, including Mr. LaValle, New York State Assemblymen Fred W. Thiele Jr., Marc Alessi and Dean Murray, Suffolk County Legislator Edward P. Romaine and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, said the MTA payroll tax is stifling the local economy. They drew on the image of the East End serving as Albany’s “donor region,” an area that is paying taxes that largely funds initiatives in other parts of the county and state.

“We on the East End—Brookhaven and the five East End towns—are subsidizing New York,” Mr. Thiele said. “We don’t get the same level of service.”

Many of the officials also called for the formation of a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority that would replace the MTA on the East End.

“We are not getting value for our dollars,” said Mr. Romaine, who represents the North Fork and eastern Brookhaven Town. “It’s time to leave the MTA behind.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Thiele introduced a bill that seeks to have residents of the five East End towns vote this November on whether or not they support the creation of a Peconic Bay Transportation Authority. The resolution, if it becomes law, would be non-binding, meaning that its intention is only to gauge if such a measure would have the support of voters.

Some residents of the East End have complained for years about not having enough public transportation service for the taxes that they pay. But those charges escalated in recent months in the wake of two recent developments.

The first was a payroll tax approved by Albany last May, and instituted in September, that was designed to help close a MTA budget shortfall. That tax requires that employers in the counties within and surrounding New York City pay to the MTA an additional 34 cents on every $100 in employee wages.

On February 8, Governor David Paterson announced that he will seek to decrease the payroll tax to 17 cents per $100 for employers outside New York City, including those in Suffolk County, while raising it to 54 cents per $100 for employers in Manhattan. That proposal would require the approval of the New York State Legislature sometime this spring, along with the rest of the 2010-11 state budget.

The second development was a proposal that, if implemented, will result in the cancellation of nearly all train service to the North Fork starting this fall, and end one peak weekday train that runs from Queens to Montauk. Those proposed cuts are intended to help close an MTA budget shortfall that existed even after the new tax was created.

In an e-mail sent on Monday, February 22, MTA Deputy Press Secretary Aaron Donovan wrote that his agency is “aggressively attacking” its cost structure in order to close an $800 million budget gap.

“We expect to have more to say very soon about ways we are reducing administrative expenses,” he wrote. “But unfortunately, administrative expense reductions alone will not solve a budget gap of this magnitude, which is why we must reduce service to all parts of the region the MTA serves.”

Mr. Donovan also said that Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams will meet with East End elected officials on Friday, February 26, to discuss MTA service to the region.

Mr. LaValle, Mr. Thiele and Mr. Alessi all voted against the MTA payroll tax when it was first proposed. In November, Mr. LaValle and Mr. Thiele introduced bills in their respective chambers that would eliminate the payroll tax in the towns of Southampton, East Hampton, Riverhead, Brookhaven, Shelter Island and Southold. The bills have been passed on to committees in each chamber, and Mr. LaValle said that he thinks the legislation will eventually become law.

“The MTA payroll tax at a time when we’re trying to create jobs, at a time when we are trying to move our economy forward—this tax has been hurtful,” Mr. LaValle said.

Mr. Walter, who spoke on behalf of the supervisors of the five East End towns, went a step further than the state legislators, calling for the dissolution of the MTA as well as the creation of a new county on the East End.

“It is time for the Peconic Bay Transportation Authority,” Mr. Walter said. “And, Mr. Lesko” he said, addressing Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko, “I’m going to go out on a limb here—it’s time for Peconic County. And I welcome Supervisor Lesko if he wants to become part of Peconic County. It is time. When you look at the amount of money we ship up west, whether it’s to the county, whether it’s to the MTA, it’s staggering.”

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why do i have to pay for something i do not use.a typical thats new york for ya
By asurest (117), easthampton on Feb 19, 10 2:25 PM
yeah, it's time. i don't mind paying taxes for worthwhile services, but the MTA tax KILLS ME. since i'm self employed, i have to send a hefty check to NYS every few months to pay for a system that barely serves my community. glad that thiele, lavalle, romaine et al are fighting for us. i support a peconic bay transportation authority 100%.
By jm (17), Hampton Bays on Feb 19, 10 4:22 PM
This most recent cut in service is such a slap in the face. It comes less than 6 months after the payroll tax in order to fix a huge budget gap. To cut service that was already meager is a cry for help from a poorly managed system. I am not ready hop on board with a new transit authority unless it can address the ferry companies. We need to connect the two forks on this far east end with at least a rate freeze or maybe a bus connecting Sag Harbor and Greenport. As it is now these places are ...more
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on Feb 19, 10 7:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
the peconic bay transportation authority sounds great but how will it be funded? where will the funding for equipment, busses, trains, operators, bureaucrats, etc come from? thats right your taxes! so whether its the mta or peconic bay regional transportation authority you'll still be paying and with a completely new entity it will probably be more! adding more government is not the solution! how about reducing the bloated mta management!
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Feb 19, 10 9:20 PM
No tax. No tax.
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on Feb 19, 10 10:39 PM
Rather than creating a new transportation bureaucracy specific to the East End, we should enjoin our legislators to press for undiminished service on the LIRR based on the fact that it will become a truly vital transportation link as oil becomes scarce and temperatures warm.

These phenomena have made it clear that the internal combustion automobile is a dinosaur. We on the East End are going to rely more and more on electrically powered transportation. For long regional distances, that's ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 19, 10 11:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
You can all thank SEN. BRIAN X FOLEY for this extra tax. He was the deciding vote in allowing this to pass! Now he's going around trying to get it reduced, trying to make it seem like he's a great guy working for you, the tax payers of long island! B.S. He voted this in, let him know you feel about it! I work at home, I don't even commute in a car to work but yet I still have to pay to a company that I don't ever use! Also, I thought the MTA wasn't allowed to take government funding!?
By yoda (2), mastic Beach on Feb 20, 10 10:52 AM
Very Taxed by the MTA
I don't particularly like politicians that much but,Thank you Senator Kenn LaValle, Legislator Ed Romaine, Assemblyman Dean Murray, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, and Assemblyman Marc Alessi, for it is refreshing to see and hear,what seems to be an important issue with us taxpayers being addressed by a bipartisan collection of elected officials. Please keep up the good work and continue to work closely with one another.
Thanks for all you do.
Sincerely, Johnny Nova
P.S. ...more
By Johnny Nova (83), Northampton on Feb 21, 10 4:36 PM
Any hope that the MTA can be reformed to include our East End needs seems myopic and naive IMO. Indeed, the MTA has "dissed" us for decades. THEY are going to change?

"Why ask the fox to keep guarding the hen house, when all the chickens are dying, and fox has fowl blood drooling from his lips?"

[Yeah, now there's a quote for you!]

We need a total change of transportation leadership here IMO. Even the MTA has hinted that they want to be rid of us.

OK, let's do ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 22, 10 2:18 PM
Sounds good huh? How much will it cost? More than the MTA? Will Shelly Silver approve of this new agency? (if not, you better forget it). Political patronage? New agency? Guess what will happen.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Feb 22, 10 10:46 PM
Oh please. Like this is the first time people pay taxes for things that they don't use. I don't have kids, so why should I pay thousands in property tax every year on school taxes? I don't use the library, so why should I pay for it? Although public transportation may not be a very practical or convenient option for East Enders, imagine what life would be like without the MTA? Traffic would be much, much worse. The luxury bus lines would charge outrageous fares. A two-hour drive to the city ...more
By HEJIRANYC (32), Sag Harbor on Feb 22, 10 2:26 PM
For an ongoing discussion on the prospect of creating a Peconic Transportation Authority, visit the new 27east forums: http://www.27east.com/forum/messages.cfm?threadid=E81A0565-E081-4CAC-92F7809631CFF959
By BOReilly (135), 27east Web Editor on Feb 23, 10 12:54 PM
Supplanting MTA with a so-called PBTA is not the solution to our current lack of adequate LIRR service and the additional projected service cuts to and from eastern Suffolk County. Making the MTA's LIRR work for all of Long Island - from Brooklyn to Montauk, from Queens to Greenport,- is the answer. It is after all the "Long Island Rail Road", not the "New York City Rail Road" or "MTA Rail Road".

The LIRR plans to eliminate the 4:30 PM Peak Hunterspoint to Montauk train starting in September ...more
By JKR (1), Center Moriches on Feb 23, 10 4:07 PM
Faith in the MTA's ability to change is misplaced in my opinion. Just look at its "track" record.

Dreadful !!!

Time for a change.

Cut bait.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Feb 23, 10 4:17 PM
Commented above, but adding to it here. Having the MTA implement needed changes out here would be the optimal solution. There is a saying: lead, follow or get out of the way. If the MTA can't lead or follow, then there is only one other choice.
By jm (17), Hampton Bays on Feb 24, 10 3:33 PM
We let it happen, folks, with our lazy and inattentive attitudes. Are we tough enough stand tall, demand accountability and vote ALL the incumbents OUT Nov 2nd?
By oneseriousSicilian (63), medford on Mar 12, 10 5:46 PM