BY BILL PARRY
In his first State of the City address, City Council
Speaker Corey Johnson called for the city to take
municipal control of of the mass transit system
away from the state in front of a packed house
at the Mainstage Theater at LaGuardia Com-munity
Johnson also released a 104-page report titled
“Let’s Go: A Case for Municipal Control and a Com-prehensive
Transit Vision for the Five Boroughs,”
saying the failed transit system is threatening the
future of the city.
“Transit is the lifeblood on New York City and it is in
crisis,” Johnson said. “We know what happens when
we don’t invest in the system. It’s called the 1970s,
but hey, the music was great.”
In the shadows on the beleaguered No. 7 subway
line in Long Island City, Johnson said the city’s economy
depends on sound transit.
“Whether you’re well off or you’re struggling, whether
you work on Wall Street or on Mains Street in Flush-ing,
you have to get around,” Johnson said. “And our
economy lives and dies on how we move people
He described how in the early 20th century, Wood-side,
Corona and Jackson Heights was rural farmland
with dirt roads and when the 7 train came it changed
the borough forever.
“In 30 years, the population of Queens grew by a
million people,” Johnson said. “Everywhere the subways
went, people followed. Businesses thrived because
we had millions of workers at the ready, courtesy of
a mass transit system that ran 24 hours a day, seven
days a week. Our subways were the envy of the world.
He then went on to explain how state control of the
MTA and its lack of investment have got us to today
where subway ridership has dropped by 5 percent
from 2015 to 2018 and the decline of those using
bus lines is off 15 percent from 2012 to 2018.
“This is a ticking time bomb, If we can’t move people
around, New York City can’t function,” Johnson warned.
“We must have municipal control of our mass transit
system. I’m deadly serious about this.”
He said if Albany doesn’t pass congestion pricing
this session, the City Council would. Johnson, who is
mulling a run for mayor in 2021, added that he believes
the structure of the MTA is deeply flawed.
“Right now, it’s a Frankenstein monster of transit
subsidiaries with a 3,000-person headquarters layered
on top,” Johnson said. “Bringing the subway’s capital
budget into the New York City budget process means
there would be real scrutiny and accountability. Instead
26 MARCH 2019 I LIC COURIER I www.qns.com
of raising fares we could be thinking about freezing fares,
lowering fares, and maybe even a system without fares.”
He added that a comprehensive transit vision re-quires
more than just fixing the MTA but sidewalks,
ferries, taxis, for-hire vehicles and pedestrian plazas are
all tools for mobility. Johnson said he would introduce
legislation that would require a Master Plan for the
city’s streets every five years. He also called for the
end of the car culture.
“We have been living in Robert Moses’ New York for
almost a century, and it’s time to move on,” Johnson
said. “Take the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, one of
his biggest legacy projects. Its construction ripped
Brooklyn apart and destroyed working-class neigh-borhoods
and now they’re talking about spending $4
billion to rebuild a mile and a half of highway. That’s
almost two Mars rovers! No one’s even talking about
other options. That is a failure of imagination.”
Johnson urged city residents to read the report on
the City Council’s website and he finished his speech
by telling the audience if they thought solving the
transit crisis is too hard, than look around when they
left Long Island City.
“Take a look at Queens. Look at Brooklyn,” Johnson
said. “The subways built that. We built the greatest
subway system in the world. We can do this New
York! Let’s do it!’
Speaker talks MTA
at State of the City
Courtesy John McCarten/NYC Council
Speaker Corey Johnson reveals his plan for a municipal takeover of the
transit system during a speech at LaGuardia Community College.