On Monday, the New York Daily News reported that in March 2016, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) wrote a $4.9 million check to help bail out three upstate New York ski resorts at the behest of Governor Cuomo’s administration, which has drawn the ire of New Yorkers on both ends of the political spectrum.
Per the report by the Daily News’ Kenneth Lovett, the MTA owed the state the $4.9 million but was told by the administration to send the money to the ailing Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), the state body which operates the Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre ski resorts.
According to the Daily News, due to warm weather, ORDA reported a 25 percent decline in visitors and an $8.8 million decrease in revenue during the 2015-2016 ski season.
The news comes at a time when the MTA has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The cash-strapped public transit authority is experiencing what the New York Post has titled the “Summer of Hell” as commuters have been beset by crippling delays on New York City’s subway system on a seemingly daily basis as the MTA has reduced service at main transport hubs (like Penn Station) and dealt with multiple derailments as it attempts to carry out weeks of badly-needed repairs and upgrades on its subway system.
“It’s certainly head scratching,” Democratic State Senator Michael Gianaris told Gothamist about the news. “It sends the absolutely wrong message, at a time when the MTA is suffering, to be sending money that has nothing to do with the mass transit needs of the region.”
“It’s terrible optics,” a former gubernatorial aide told the Daily News. “They’re stealing from one bankrupt place to prop up another bankrupt place.”
“Commuters are facing hellish, dangerous commutes due to Gov. Cuomo’s mismanagement, and the Governor taking $5 million from the MTA to fund ski slopes is a punch in the gut to riders,” New York Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, who called the the actions of the Cuomo administration, “secretive and unusual” told the Daily News in a subsequent story.
In addition to outcry from members of the New York political scene, New Yorkers have taken to Twitter to vent about the news.
— Liz Benjamin (@CTLizB) July 10, 2017
Just spent almost 5 hours commuting today so yea @NYGovCuomo keep giving MTA money to ski resorts update!
— SK (@samncheese90) July 10, 2017
Amidst reports of gubernatorial interference with the subway, we need decisive action to safeguard @mta so it's not bailing out ski resorts
— Bay Ridge Drivers (@BayRidgeDrivers) July 10, 2017
But members of the Cuomo administration say that the accounting trick is a fairly common practice and told the Daily News the negative attention was much ado about nothing.
“The state routinely and for years has used its resources to support functions of the MTA and other state authorities and this was payment for these services,” an MTA spokesperson told the Daily News. “Simply as an accounting function, the state requested that our payments be sent to ORDA instead of the Division of Budget — which we complied with.”
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