Did you know that the MTA stole millions from Roosevelt Island Tram riders? Thefts started in 2010. It was New York State government bungling at its worst. Stories last week covering RIOC’s clownish mishandling of the new OMNY system touched on the scam, but it’s time for a closer look.
by David Stone
The Roosevelt Island Daily News
The MTA stole millions for over a decade
When the Roosevelt Island Tram joined the MetroCard system in 2004, the fare was $2.00 per ride. Residents ditched their historic Tram tokens – each had a distinctive hole in the middle – when MetroCard became the only gate opener.
Roosevelt Island Tram in View
Locals were thrilled. Led by Matthew Katz, the Residents Association pushed for it for years. An additional shove by activist City Council Member Jessica Lappin got it over the top. With MetroCard readers installed, riders transferred freely between MTA buses and subways, relieved of the burden of extra fares.
Although RIOC seemed, more or less, lost in the shuffle, having added little muscle to the efforts, a contract with the larger agency was necessary. That agreement resolved revenue sharing as passengers transferring between buses, subways and the Tram no longer paid a second time.
All well and good, but something got left out. Whoever negotiated on behalf of Roosevelt Islanders muffed a crucial element: there is no escalation clause. RIOC’s share was set in legal concrete at two bucks. They’ve known about this for a long time and there was ample time for hammering out a fix, but RIOC, not surprisingly, sat on its hands. As a result, the MTA legally stole millions from Roosevelt Island.
In 2010, fares throughout the city’s MetroCard system went up to $2.25, including the Tram. But because there was no escalation clause in the contract, the MTA kept 100% of the increase. That’s when the local community got gypped for the first time.
The MTA upped the thievery in 2013 and 2015 when fares jumped to $2.50 and $2.75 respectively. Losses to Roosevelt Island went into the millions. And it continues every time you swipe $2.75 into the Tram’s MetroCard readers. We’re treading 2004 water. We get $2.00, and the MTA skims the rest.
Not only is RIOC feeble in its whiney attempts to get the money, the MTA is more than deaf enough in ignoring them. Even if we finally get an update, years of legal thefts will be ignored.
Understanding why this matters requires an appreciation of Roosevelt Island’s unique form of governance. It’s undemocratic and plagued with expensive incompetence, but neither is the point. The point is that RIOC is primarily funded by residents via the hidden RIOC Tax.
That little kink in the universe makes the community very likely the highest taxed in America, hit for federal, state, city and RIOC taxes.
The result: When the MTA steals millions from RIOC, it forces the community to pick up the shortfall.
Tangible results from the MTA stealing millions
No question, RIOC is a bloated giant squatting on a little, disempowered Island, but take a single example. Each year, the ballooning state agency grudgingly gives up $150,000 in Public Purpose Grants supporting local nonprofits. (Legally, they can give out around $1 million.) Yet, since 2015, they’ve let the MTA keep an unearned million or more without serious protest.
In reality, it may be that patronage and favoritism has so encumbered RIOC with ineptitude that it can’t act effectively as an advocate. And maybe, without ever having to stand for a vote, the execs simply lack the cojones for doing the right thing.
But what we can surmise, honestly, is that a change is needed, starting with recouping the millions the MTA stole from Roosevelt Island. That money should be gifted to our starved nonprofits without RIOC stuffing is pockets. If RIOC President/CYA Shelton Haynes and company can’t rally for something so obvious, as it appears, the bumblers ought to go and stay gone.
More from the Roosevelt Island Daily
- Weed Retailers Rail Against ‘Financial Slavery’ in State Cannabis RolloutGabriel Poblete and Rosalind Adams, The City This article was originally published on Jun 7 4:18pm EDT by THE CITY State officials in charge of New York’s slow-to-start retail cannabis rollout met with license-holders Tuesday in an attempt to address frustrations about the pace and cost of opening start-up businesses under the state’s complex system.
- Mayor Eric Adams’ Sister-In-Law Landed $150,000 City Government GigYoav Gonen, The City This article was originally published on Jun 8 5:01am EDT by THE CITY The administration of Eric Adams appointed the mayor’s sister-in-law Sharon Adams to a job at the city Department of Education in March, public records show — with a $150,000-a-year salary, more than double her prior pay as a
- How to Stay Safe as Hazardous Wildfire Smoke Engulfs New YorkSamantha Maldonado and Rachel Holliday Smith, The City This article was originally published on Jun 7 3:04pm EDT by THE CITY Smoke from wildfires in Canada brought another day of especially bad air quality in New York City on Wednesday, canceling after school activities for school kids, muddling the skyline and smelling up the streets.
- RIOC Sucks Wind Now In Defamation Claims Against WhistleblowersWhistleblowers Erica Spencer-EL, Amy Smith and Jessica Cerone sued RIOC for unlawful termination in February. In an extraordinary move, the state agency fired back with defamation claims in a separate lawsuit. But last month, The Daily learned, that lawsuit was unceremoniously abandoned. The whistleblowers’ lawsuit accusing RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes and other executives of
- Why Blue Lights Are Appearing at Some Subway StationsJose Martinez, The City This article was originally published on Jun 7 5:00am EDT by THE CITY Three subway stations that are among the most prone to people going onto the tracks are the first in the New York City Transit system to test lights that can have a calming effect and deter suicide attempts,
[…] Brewing Scandal: How the MTA stole millions from Tram riders… […]
[…] fancy pants plastic cards or snarky MTA negotiators. And we got to keep all the money too, not make involuntary contributions to their deficit reduction […]
[…] How the MTA Stole Millions from Tram Riders […]