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News finds MTA waste and bloat

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News finds MTA waste and bloat

BY BENJAMIN LESSER and GREG B. SMITH

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

Monday, December 17th 2007, 4:00 AM

 

[float=right]amd_howardrobertsjr.jpg

NYC Transit President Howard Roberts is

one of eight agency chiefs who combine

to make $1.8 million as riders brace for hike.

[/float]As the MTA clobbers New Yorkers with massive fare and toll hikes this week, a Daily News investigation finds the agency riddled with redundant costs and wasteful spending.

 

The bloat starts at the very top, where several agency presidents receive thousands of dollars in housing allowances even though they're in easy commuting distance from their jobs.

 

It continues in the duplicative assignment of the same tasks to different workers in the seven agencies, such as Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, that are under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

 

Monday, the agency's finance panel signs off on the plan to boost weekly and monthly MetroCards, commuter rail fares and bridge and tunnel tolls - insisting they've done all they can to trim costs and need more cash.

 

On Wednesday, the full MTA board, including members controlled by Gov. Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg, are set to give their approval.

 

What The News found raises questions about the MTA's proclaimed effort to root out duplicate costs.

 

Four years ago, the MTA was warned to reign in its bureaucracy by reducing duplicative jobs. Since then, it's done little in response, cutting only a handful of administrative jobs.

 

The News obtained four of the MTA's biggest payrolls under the Freedom of Information Law; other agencies have yet to turn over their payrolls.

 

The records show that in the coming year the agency plans to expand the number of jobs from 69,973 to 70,469. In subsequent years the number of jobs will be reduced by a tiny amount - 138 - leaving the number of workers still above the current level.

 

Consider this:

 

 

Instead of one president, there are eight - the MTA chief and seven agencies.

Instead of one chief financial officer, there are six CFOs.

Instead of a central staff, each agency has its own lawyers, auditors and payroll clerks.

MTA officials point out that many of the separate agencies operating under their oversight were originally separate private companies. To make them all one agency would require changing laws, something they say they tried but failed to do in 2004.

 

At that time, the state controller warned the agency it was larded with duplicative costs and did not have an efficient way to figure out what jobs could be cut.

 

Since then, the agency has created a system that allows them to discover duplicate tasks - but it's done little to eliminate them.

 

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan acknowledged as much, stating, "Over the long term, we believe that the MTA could see significant savings by centralizing many human resources and financial functions. To that end, we have begun to analyze the costs and benefits of a business services center."

 

Last year, the MTA created a $120,000-a-year director of shared services to attack the problem; a study on the problem won't be out until next year. The News found a multilayered bureaucracy where employees with the same titles perform the same tasks in different offices.

 

Take, for instance, lawyers: The MTA couldn't fit all the lawyers it employs on a city bus. Dredging through last year's records, The News found a total 112 lawyers with a $12 million payroll. Many of them are hidden in a sub agency practically no one has ever heard of: the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority. In that agency alone, The News found 35 lawyers.

 

There were 39 more at NYC Transit, 19 at MTA headquarters, 11 at the LIRR and eight at Metro-North.

 

Even that was not enough. MTA headquarters has spent millions on outside counsel from some of New York's most prestigious - and expensive - law firms.

 

Then there's the presidents. When it comes to the MTA's highest paid executives, no expense is spared.

 

The director of the MTA and the seven presidents of the agencies within its purview get more than $1.8 million in salary and deferred compensation. Some also get housing allowances.

 

Housing allowances alone total $234,000 each year, and apply both to execs who are in commuting distance of their jobs and those who are not.

 

Elliot Sander, the $265,000-a-year executive director of the MTA, gets a $60,000 annual housing allowance, $12,000 more than his predecessor. He gets this even though he lives in a Douglaston, Queens, home in his wife's name with an assessed value of $1.4 million. Plus he owns three condos in Bayside and Kew Gardens.

 

Two other $215,00-a-year transit agency presidents, LIRR President Helena Williams and Metro-North President Peter Cannito, each get $42,000-a-year in housing allowance.

 

Both live in easy commuting distance of their jobs - Williams in a brick Garden City, L.I., colonial assessed at $915,000, and Cannito in a $1.1 million one-family with school-tax and veterans-tax exemptions.

 

The allowance does not pay for housing per se, Donovan said, but "is part of their paychecks ... a traditional component of compensation packages."

 

The News found that for the MTA and its subagencies, the top tier execs pull in a total of $1.85 million - and some earn a "housing" allowance, even though they're in commuting distance. Here's a look at some of the top earners:

 

Elliot Sander,

MTA executive director& CEO

Base salary: $265,000

Housing allowance: $60,000

(He lives in Douglaston, Queens.)

Deferred comp: $15,000

Total: $340,000.

 

Howard Roberts,

NYC Transit president

Base salary: $248,000

Housing allowance: $48,000

(He owns a four-bedroom, four-fireplace home on 7 acres in rural Pennsylvania and rents an apartment in Manhattan.)

Deferred comp: $15,000

Total: $311,000

 

Peter Cannito,

Metro-North president

Base salary: $215,000

Housing allowance: $42,000

(Lives in Armonk, Westchester, 15 minutes from the North White Plains station of Metro-North's Harlem line.)

Total: $272,000

 

Helena Williams,

LIRR president

Base salary: $215,000

Housing allowance: $42,000

(She lives in Garden City, L.I., which has its own LIRR station nearby.)

Total: $272,000

 

Mysore Nagaraja,

MTA Capital Construction president

Base salary: $200,000

Housing allowance: $42,000

(Lives in Hillsdale, N.J., which has NJ Transit service)

Deferred comp: $15,000

Total: $257,000

 

Thomas Savage,

MTA Bus Company president

Base salary: $200,000

Housing allowance: none

Deferred comp: $15,000

Total: $215,000

 

Neil Yellin,

L.I. Bus president

Base salary: $163,000

Housing allowance: none

Total: $178,000

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Haha, LI, and MTA Bus Presidents get no housing allowance. MTA must have no love for them.

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How do you like the fact that only one of the seven top MTA earners lives within the five boroughs of New York City?

 

Shows how much they really care about New York.

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Personally I think every agency should have a president. It's how businesses been run for years. What they need to do is cut back on all the VPs and SVPs. That's a start right there.

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