Skoufis rips MTA head for service shortfall in Orange, Rockland

Sen. James Skoufis has been a short-order cook of late, working the grill last week when the environmental conservation commissioner took questions from lawmakers and again on Wednesday when Metropolitan Transportation Authority representatives went to Albany for the Legislature’s latest budget hearing.

The Woodbury Democrat, who served six years in the Assembly before becoming a senator this month, didn’t hold back as he opened his questioning of Pat Foye, telling the MTA president that the mass-transit system he oversees has achieved a globe-topping level of badness.

“I can say with a high level of confidence,” Skoufis told Foye, “that the MTA is the dirtiest, least reliable, slowest, and most expensive mass transit system in the industrialized world.”

He then cited, by way of contrast to the MTA’s subway breakdowns, an abject apology that a Japanese railroad issued last year for the inconvenience it caused riders when one of its trains arrived 25 seconds early. He asked Foye if the MTA owed its customers an apology.

“The short answer is absolutely yes,” Foye responded, adding, “No, we’re not happy with the service, and we do owe the public an apology.”

Skoufis moved on to his more local interest, which was the disparity in commuter service the MTA offers in Orange and Rockland counties in comparison to what is available on the east side of the Hudson and on Long Island. He rattled off some numbers to illustrate: 56 daily inbound Metro-North trains on the west side of the Hudson on weekdays, versus 239 on the east side and 418 inbound Long Island Railroad trains.

His underlying complaint was that Orange and Rockland taxpayers get only 65 to 70 cents of train service for every dollar they give the MTA.

“What can you tell west-of-Hudson riders that see this value gap every day and feel so marginalized in the MTA system?” he asked.

A week earlier, Skoufis sharply questioned departing DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos about the Competitive Power Ventures plant in Wawayanda and the disclosure in a federal corruption trial that an unnamed DEC official had asked for a “push from above” to approve an agreement that the energy company wanted. He also pressed Seggos on whether he plans to decide on requests that the plant’s air-pollution permit be withdrawn to allow an investigation of the permitting process in the wake of that trial.

Seggos responded that a judge has instructed the DEC to allow the plant to continue operating until a decision is reached in a dispute between the department and CPV over renewing the plant’s expired air permit.

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