Skip to content

Posts from the "Ruben Diaz Sr." Category

14 Comments

In Effort to Pander to Drivers, 48 Senators Vote to Up Oil Company Profits

Adriano Espaillat voted for a gas tax holiday -- which won't even help lower costs at the pump -- on the dime of the 70 percent of his constituents who don't own a car. Photo: Chu for Daily News

The New York State Senate voted for a “gas tax holiday” yesterday, moving to eliminate the three state taxes on fuel for the busy Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day weekends this year. The estimated loss of revenue would be $60 million.

The 48 state senators who voted for the gas tax holiday wanted to ensure that drivers didn’t have to pay for the environmental and social costs of their actions — a misguided enough goal — but their desperate attempt to pander wouldn’t even have been a success on those grounds.

As economists from across the political spectrum have stated, a summertime gas tax holiday wouldn’t reduce the price at the pump. Oil companies would charge the same rate and pocket the difference. The libertarian Cato Institute, no friend of taxes, called gas tax holidays a “holiday from reality” in 2008. If we really must pander to motorists, surely we can all agree that New Yorkers deserve better panderers.

Those state senators, however, are savvy politicos. They can’t deliver the goods, but they know their audience. That’s where the gas tax vote is especially revealing.

Even if a gas tax holiday worked as promised, reducing the price at the pump instead of increasing Exxon’s profit margins, it’s a sure thing where the money comes from: the state’s transportation budget. If the gas tax holiday costs $60 million, that’s $60 million in new revenues needed for the MTA and state DOT, or $60 million more in cuts to things like education. While only drivers would even theoretically benefit, everyone else would pay the price.

Voting for a gas tax holiday means you’re worried about appeasing drivers in your district and not too concerned with sending everybody else the bill. That’s probably good politics if you’re Patrick Gallivan, the Western New York senator whose district has a 96 percent car ownership rate according to Streetsblog’s analysis of Census data. More outrageous is the fact that many New York City senators seem to agree.

Read more…

2 Comments

Will the Fare Hike Four Face Pro-Transit Primary Challengers?

Last week we profiled Igor Oberman, the challenger gunning to unseat State Senator Carl Kruger this September who's made support for transit, including bridge tolls, a centerpiece of his campaign. So, what's going on with the other three members of the Fare Hike Four -- Pedro Espada, Rubén Díaz Sr., and Hiram Monserrate. Their anti-transit obstinacy undercut the MTA's finances, leading to the sweeping service cuts about to take effect, but have they drawn challengers committed to improving subways and buses? In these three districts, it seems, unseating the incumbents wouldn't necessarily mean that the work of transit advocacy is done. 

Monserrate, of course, was expelled from the State Senate and then defeated in a special election for his old seat by Assembly Member José Peralta. Peralta was one of the leading opponents of bridge tolls in the Assembly and put his opposition to congestion pricing front and center on his campaign website. In Peralta's Senate district, 53.3 percent of households do not own a car [PDF].

Ramos_with_Hunter_Speaking.jpgCarlos Ramos, Jr. and Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter.
Carlos "Charlie" Ramos, Jr., formerly an aide to Comptroller William Thompson, announced that he was challenging Díaz just a couple of weeks ago. Ramos told Streetsblog that he is "unequivocally opposed to raising fares to subsidize the commutes of suburban residents" and boasted that he "grew up riding the El train" through the Bronx, but was not ready at this point in his campaign to offer any solutions for how to keep fares low, given the MTA's fiscal condition.

In a press release tied to the Staten Island Ferry crash, Ramos announced his general support for sustainable transportation. "Innovative ways to relieve vehicular congestion in the city, such as the 'Yankee Ferry' here in the Bronx, should be explored in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and thwart potential environmental hazards," the statement read.

In the district where Ramos is running, 67.0 percent of households do not own a car [PDF].

Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a leader in the fight for higher wages at the Kingsbridge Armory, has taken on scandal-battered Pedro Espada. Before she takes any position on MTA financing, Pilgrim-Hunter told us, she wants to "look at the books -- the real books -- to look at what's going on and how this money is being managed." 

Read more...
4 Comments

Ruben Diaz, Sr. Still Bending Over Backwards for Suburban Drivers

Last night, shortly after Pedro Espada secured his $41,000 majority leader perk, the State Senate returned to the business of legislating. Liz Benjamin has several posts today explaining what that looked like. In less than 24 hours, the chamber passed 135 bills. It could have passed 136, but Bronx Democrat Ruben Diaz, Sr. sided against his party and killed a measure to stiffen penalties for traffic violations on Long Island:

Diaz Sr. raised eyebrows when he crossed the aisle to join the GOP in voting against a bill that would have established a mandatory surcharge for traffic offenses and infractions in Suffolk and Nassau counties.

It was not immediately evident why the Bronx Democrat would care enough about such a parochial suburban issue to buck his own conference. His move created a 31-31 tie, and since Richard Ravitch is not yet presiding over the chamber (and probably couldn’t have legally cast the stalemate-breaking vote, anyway), Sen. Malcolm Smith decided to take the bill off the floor.

The reason Diaz stalled the bill? He wanted to cajole Republicans into opposing an increase to New York City’s sales tax. Of course, the ploy, if you can call it that, didn’t work at all. The sales tax coasted to passage in a 43-19 vote (so much for avoiding taxes on hard-working New Yorkers). But rest easy, Nassau and Suffolk drivers: Ruben Diaz, Sr. has got you covered, again.

28 Comments

Senator Diaz: Sticking It to Transit Riders and Proud of It

In this scene from last night's State Senate vote on the MTA funding package, Fare Hike Four member Ruben Diaz, Sr. relishes his substantial influence over the final bill:

Today I'm standing here proud to say to my constituents. I promise you, constituents of the 32nd senatorial district, no toll.

That would be the asthma-plagued Bronx district where 67 percent of the households don't own cars [PDF] and the transit-riding majority endures the most crowded, cramped conditions in the city. Thanks to the intransigence of Diaz and company on bridge tolls, it's going to be much tougher to improve commutes for straphangers in the 32nd.

22 Comments

The Day After

bilde.jpg

Well, here we are again.

One year after State Assembly Democrats killed New York City’s attempt to fund mass transit and reduce traffic gridlock, sustainable transport advocates find themselves suffering yet another huge defeat in Albany.

Fixing Albany requires volunteers dragging themselves out to the Kings Highway Q train platform in the middle of Carl Kruger’s district and handing palm cards to commuters explaining that the impending fare hike is the direct result of their state senator’s fine work.

On Wednesday the MTA Board approved the “doomsday” scenario – massive fare hikes and sweeping service cuts for New York City’s eight million transit riders. The State Legislature easily could have avoided doomsday by approving Richard Ravitch’s financing plan or coming up with a viable alternative of its own. But a handful of New York City State Senators, Carl Kruger, Ruben Diaz Sr., Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate – call them the Fare Hike Four – couldn’t bear the thought of imposing new fees on New York City’s motorists. In working to protect the free driving privilege of New York City’s armada of horn-honking, exhaust-spewing, road-clogging single-passenger car commuters, the State Senate has brought the city’s transit system to the brink of financial ruin. If you ride a train or bus in New York City you're going to pay the price.

The irresponsibility, the destructiveness and sheer lack of seriousness displayed by the Fare Hike Four is without question and we could spend all day heaping scorn on them. But the Senate Democrats are hardly any worse than the minority Republicans who were perfectly happy to sit by and watch the train wreck. And we could just as well place the blame for our current mess on the State Assembly members who killed congestion pricing last year.

Rather than pointing fingers at our feckless state government, advocates for livable streets and mass transit need to take a good long look in the mirror. Despite assembling a broad and seemingly powerful coalition in support of our issues, our advocacy consistently goes nowhere in Albany. That needs to change. So, how?

Read more...

11 Comments

Asked for His MetroCard, Diaz Goes Berserk

diazgrabpost.jpgRemember when a local "investigative reporter" badgered Lee Sander on how often he takes the train? The Post decided to give the Fare Hike Four and their Senate allies the same treatment, and found all but one of them without a MetroCard.

Regardless, when asked if they use the transit system, most replied in the affirmative. Not so in the case of Ruben Diaz, Sr., who -- well, we'll let him tell you.

"Don't ask me if I ride or don't ride. It doesn't mean anything," said Diaz. "Who rides the subway doesn't matter. You don't listen to me. It doesn't matter who rides the subway. I don't care who rides the train or who doesn't ride the train.

"Listen to what I'm saying," he said on a continuing tirade. "English, English, English. I don't care who rides the train who rides the train or not. Whoever rides the train or whenever they ride the train, I'm offering the best plan."

That plan, one that he said would hit straphangers with only "a 4 percent" fare increase, was slammed by Gov. Paterson, the MTA and transit advocates as having bad math. It would actually carry a 17 percent fare increase, they said.

"I'm here representing a community," Diaz said. "For the community I represent, I'm offering four things: No layoffs, no tolls, no cut of services, and a 4 percent increase of fare."

Asked earlier this week by another reporter about protests in his district -- where 67 percent of households don't own cars -- Diaz replied: "The gays demonstrate in front of my office, too. Everyone demonstrates in front of my office! I love those people."

So, people, Diaz loves you, even if you're one of the "the gays." But he really, really doesn't care that you ride the train.

16 Comments

With No Plan for Transit, the Next Fare Hike Is Just Around the Bend

If state legislators don't act to undo the outcome of today's MTA Board meeting, it would mark the second straight year that fares have gone up, which is already a departure from the norm. And it's going to get worse, say Gene Russianoff and the Straphangers Campaign:

Without new financial help from Albany soon, the MTA says its current bad finances may mean another fare hike in 2010.

That would make it three years in a row for fare increases -- March 2008, June 2009 and early 2010 -- the worst record in the MTA's 40-plus year history.

It demonstrates a trend of shifting the costs of operating transit from some beneficiaries of the subways and buses -- such as motorists and businesses -- onto riders.  For example, the riders' share of operating costs for the subways will go from 69% to an astonishing 84%, according to the MTA, if the just-approved fare increases are implemented.

Under the plan proposed by former MTA chairman Richard Ravitch, no new fare hike would occur before 2011.

Meanwhile, the excuses for inaction are pouring in. GOP State Senator Marty Golden, a Brooklyn rep who never broke ranks to support the Ravitch plan, sent around a press release blaming the state's top Democrats for "closing the doors completely to Republicans." Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos excused his party's monolithic opposition to the transit rescue effort in much the same way, and added that the MTA was asking for a "blank check" by seeking to fund its five-year capital program. As Liz Benjamin notes, that's exactly what the Fare Hike Four and Senate Dems have been saying.

It's a patently false claim. Any plan is subject to oversight and approval by the Capital Program Review Board. The leaders of the State Senate and the Assembly each appoint one voting member to the CPRB, as do the mayor and the governor. Any of the four voting members can veto the whole thing. Said Russianoff: "If they appropriated the money, they would still have power over how it's spent."

16 Comments

Victory for the Fare Hike Four: Transit Riders Will Pay More for Less

fhf_medium.jpg

Because a handful of state senators representing New York City refused to back a credible plan to fund our transit system, the MTA's March 25th deadline has come and gone without any reprieve for everyone who relies on subways and buses. Head over to City Room for scenes from the final act.

Pedro Espada photo: John DeSio

No Comments

Doomsday Transit Cuts, District by District

diazgrab2.jpgBarring a viable MTA rescue plan, the 140,000 transit riders in Ruben Diaz. Sr.'s district will lose the Bx4 and the Bx14
If you're wondering how MTA doomsday service cuts will affect you, you can now look them up by state legislative district and ZIP code, thanks to new maps from the Regional Plan Association.

Not that the Fare Hike Four concern themselves with facts and data, but in Ruben Diaz, Sr.'s Bronx district, maps show the planned elimination of bus lines Bx4 and Bx14, as well as altered or reduced service on seven additional routes. Not to mention increased wait times on the 4, 5, and 6 subway lines. Constituents of Hiram Monserrate, Pedro Espada, Jr., and Carl Kruger all face cutbacks and service eliminations as well.

With GOP senators indicating a willingness to negotiate, there may yet be an outside chance to salvage a workable, long-term MTA rescue plan. There's still time to remind your legislators what you, and the city, stand to lose without it.

11 Comments

The Four Stooges

farehikefour_final.jpg

OK, we have a winner of yesterday's photo caption contest. Democratic State Senators Hiram Monserrate, Carl Kruger, Pedro Espada, Jr. and Ruben Diaz, Sr. will henceforth be known as "The Fare Hike Four."

While we're at it, we figure if the State Senate is going to treat New York City's transit riders like clowns and turn the MTA funding process into a year-long circus, we're going to need a good graphic to go with the story. So, here's what Livable Streets Initiative graphic design genius Carly Clark came up with. From left-to-right that's Monserrate playing the role of the abusive Moe, Kruger as the developmentally-impaired Curly, Espada as Shemp, and Diaz as the bumbling but lovable Larry. 

We'll have travel mugs and t-shirts printed up soon so you can ride with the Fare Hike Four on your morning commute.

Pedro Espada photo: John DeSio