Mayor Bill de Blasio: You've heard a lot of fiction the last few days, so I'm going to give you some facts. The State – the State and the MTA are responsible for the operations of New York City's subways. It's been that way for decades. The State of New York is responsible for making sure our subways run. Again, everyone knows this – it's been decades and decades that the Governor of the State – whoever the Governor is – has named the head of the MTA and has effective control over the MTA. The law that started the creation of the MTA goes all the way back to 1953. If you talk to people who have been involved for decades with the MTA, they say consistently that the State has had responsibility.
No one questions, for example, whether I have responsibility for making sure the city is safe and for how the NYPD is run or how our schools are run. But when it comes to the MTA, in the last weeks, we've heard all sorts of different explanations. There's only one explanation – the State of New York is responsible for the MTA, period – for the expense budget, for the capital budget, for the whole thing. The expense budget is almost $16 billion a year, the capital budget is $32 billion over five years. Here's the truth – they're not even spending their capital budget. There's a huge amount of money sitting there, including the money the City gave them. We gave them $2.5 billion a couple years ago. Almost 90 percent of that money is just sitting there.
So this is not about the MTA needing more money right now. This is the MTA needing to use its money the right way, spend its money properly on the things that matter. What people of the city want is for the subway to show up, for it to run on time, for these horrible delays to end, and these breakdowns to end. That's where the State should be putting its focus and the MTA should be putting their focus, not on other matters that are not as important. That's the bottom line.
So they have money. They need to spend that money on what matters. We need to see a plan immediately that will fix the problems that riders face every day.
Also, remember – the State of New York has used the MTA as a piggy bank. They have taken almost half a billion dollars in money out of the MTA to use for the State budget. That money needs to come back to the MTA, so it could be used for the needs of everyday riders.
So there's lots to be done, but the resources are there. It's about the MTA and the State of New York stepping up, taking responsibility, coming up with a real plan, and fixing things. It's as simple as that.
Happy to take your questions.
Question: Mr. Mayor, you at one point said that you thought that Joe Lhota was a good choice for MTA Chair. He came out and said the City owns it and made some claims that you would dispute. Do you still think that he's a good choice –
Mayor: I think he's a good choice.
Question: Did you take public transportation when you were traveling to Germany?
Mayor: Did I take public transportation in –
Question: When you were traveling in Hamburg –
Mayor: I don't remember taking the public transportation there. Next question.
Question: Is Andrew Cuomo lying to New York City residents, do you think?
Mayor: He needs to just take responsibility. That's the simple answer. What he said and what the Chairman said over the last few days just is fiction. He needs to take responsibility for the MTA. He's done it at different points. He was certainly doing it on New Year's Eve. He should just do it again. Say look – I'll look you in the face and say I'm responsible for the NYPD, I'm responsible for the DOE, I'm responsible for the Fire Department, I'm responsible for the Sanitation Department. If something goes wrong, it's on me. If something goes right – great, I'll take credit. It's that simple. The Governor and Chairman Lhota simply need to get in front of everyone and say – we're fully responsible, we have to fix the problem. They have the resources. They have the resources. There's no doubt about it. Now give us a plan that will fix the problem.
Question: And if you have your druthers, how would this end? What's the best case scenario?
Mayor: It's very simple. Use the money you have. Look it – we have it on a fact sheet. Look at the past amount of money that has not been spent, including the money the City of New York gave. 90 percent of the money we gave them two years ago hasn't been spent.
Question: So you'll just say no?
Mayor: I'll – listen, listen to logic – my guys, look – I want to reason here on the subway with you because I've been surprised by this demand for more money when the money they have is not being spent in any rational fashion. One, look at the fact sheet – how much MTA money is not being spent overall, not just the money we gave them, but the money they had from other sources, including New York City residents and taxpayers – they're not spending it. Two, they don't have a plan to address the immediate problems, and that's what they need to focus on – the signals, the electronics, the basics. Show everyone that plan and shift resources to that plan. So why are we talking about more money when we know they have money that they're not spending now? And the State of New York took half a billion out of the MTA budget for its own needs. Give that money back before you talk about anything from the City of New York.
Question: Does the Governor need to ride the subway more?
Mayor: That's his choice. I've ridden the subway throughout my life for 20 years, I told you guys, 1979 to 1999 – the only thing I did was ride the subway. Chirlane has ridden the subway throughout her life. We have a lot of experience with it. I'll keep riding the subway. I want to make sure straphangers know I'm fighting for their needs, and that means a new plan from the MTA, for the MTA to spend the money they have on the things that matter.
Question: Mr. Mayor, are you going to play hardball and not provide money to the MTA?
Mayor: We have provided $2.5 billion. I don't know which part of this is not getting across. We provided $2.5 billion. They have not spent 90 percent of it. It's as simple as that. We are not under a legal obligation to provide more. The MTA has a lot of money they're not spending. Read my lips – they're not spending the money they have, and they're not spending it on the right things. Spend it on the signals, spend it on the new train, spend it on the electronic system, spend it on more maintenance. Let's see the MTA come forward with a plan. Let's see the MTA use the money it has. Let's see the State of New York return the half billion they took out of the MTA budget.
Question: Mr. Mayor, you recently called these subway rides cheap symbolism. Why today –
Mayor: I was talking about a very specific question my friends. I said when I go from Gracie to the gym, my cars go along too. That's what the question was about. Do my cars go with me? And yes, they do. So that's my point. The car's going to be going with me either way, whether I'm in the subway or in the car.
But now we are in the midst of a crisis over these last couple of months. It's important for New Yorkers to know I'm fighting for these changes in the MTA and I'm out there experiencing what they're experiencing. I'm talking to a lot of people on the subway. I'm going to keep doing it.
Question: Do you think New Yorkers would be willing to pay more money to support mass transit?
Mayor: I think the money the MTA has is not being spent and is not being spent properly. Let's do that before you talk about anyone spending more money. Let's use the money we have.
Question: You're on a train right now having a press conference here.
Mayor: Send a message that there needs to be a new plan for the MTA that fixes the problem. Thank you guys.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I was not on the train with the mayor. This is from a transcript provided by the mayor's press office.