A big showing by the union that represents most transit workers spiced up the monthly MTA board meeting in Midtown on Wednesday, as the union members wanted the agency to not sell its old Brooklyn headquarters to NYU, saying the MTA could save on rent. NY1's Transit reporter Tina Redwine filed the following report.
Members of the Transport Workers Union packed a meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board in Midtown on Wednesday. They urged the board to vote down an all-but-done deal to abandon the agency's former transit headquarters at 370 Jay Street in Brooklyn.
It was the last step of a deal the mayor announced on Monday to transfer the space to NYU for a high tech research center.
"Before the MTA gets into the business of using its public assets that belong to New York City transit riders to create an epicenter of technology in academia, the MTA should use that public asset to create an epicenter of excellent transit service in New York City," said TWU President John Samuelsen.
The long-neglected building was transit headquarters until about 10 years ago when staff moved to 2 Broadway. The MTA only pays $1 a year in rent for 370 Jay Street, versus $23 million a year for its new headquarters.
The union said the MTA should sublease 2 Broadway and move back to 370 Jay Street and another MTA building in Brooklyn.
The MTA board did not budge.
"I believe that is a prudent course of business," said one board member.
MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota said the agency was not using the space at 370 Jay Street, so the authority had to give it back per their lease with the city.
NYU is paying the MTA $50 million, but the agency says this will just cover the cost of moving communications equipment at 370 Jay Street into the basement.
Lhota promised he is preparing for the day when the MTA can increase service.
"Not a day goes by when we don't look at the service cuts that we have to try to determine if we were in a financial position to be able to put them back," said Lhota.
The union has been without a contract for more than three months, but with no talk of a strike. Samuelsen said contract negotiations are moving forward.
The MTA would not comment, but did confirm that Lhota and Samuelsen are meeting again on Thursday.