U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Representative Anthony Weiner are both from Brooklyn. Congressman Charles Rangel, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, was born and raised in Harlem. The list goes on.
Politicians are like parents: they fight for their own, above all else. When there's money to be had, they want their districts to have it. So it comes as no surprise that the city is receiving a lion's share of the state's Federal Stimulus money. But just because we're getting tons of money – taxpayer-funded, remember - doesn't mean it’s being put to good use.
Take transportation, for instance.
The city was awarded $261 million in transportation funding from the federal stimulus bill. The money will help fund 31 projects across the city, in the process preserving or creating 32,000 jobs, a tremendous amount right now.
The flip side, however, is that not a single cent of the $261 million in transportation dollars will be spent on the mass transit system, according to Mayor Bloomberg, who said there is no provision in the federal spending for mass transit. Oops.
Some will say it doesn't matter because even if all the money went to mass transit it couldn't plug the MTA's $1.2 billion budget deficit, which is true. Yet how can a transportation bill for New York City exclude our subways and buses? This doesn't make any sense, especially now, when riders are facing enormous fare hikes and service cuts.
Of the six projects slated to receive direct federal funds, one includes the replacement of the protective coating on two Bruckner Expressway Bridges, an $8.8 million project. Another calls for a $6 million rehabilitation of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge.
These are worthy projects, to be sure. They demand attention and resources. Still, ask an unemployed or part-time subway rider facing unaffordable rate hikes if they'd rather see the city's transportation money go towards mass transit.
Certainly $261 million alone isn't enough to both repair our bridges and roads and also help fund our mass transit system. A balance, however, would be nice; an acknowledgment, perhaps, that subway riders - especially outer borough residents - could use some help, too.
Hopefully, as the city, state, and federal governments work together to disburse federal stimulus dollars in the future, they'll do so on a case-by-case basis instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach.