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MTA board bosses now in favor of axing perk giving execs lifetime free passes

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MTA board bosses now in favor of axing perk giving execs lifetime free passes

BY PETE DONOHUE

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

June 22st 2008

 

[float=right]amd_midtown-tunnel-tolls.jpg[/float]The MTA gravy train screeches to a halt Wednesday.

 

A majority of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board is expected to support a proposal ending the decades-old perk giving members lifetime free travel.

 

At least nine of the 13 board members with full votes have signaled support for the resolution. It would restrict free use of subways, buses, commuter trains, bridges and tunnels to current board members on official duty.

 

They include Mayor Bloomberg's four representatives, a source said. Vice chairman David Mack, Nancy Shevell, Norman Seabrook and the newest board member - Bronx native and transportation expert Doreen Frasca - said they are on board.

 

"I just think it's the right thing to do," Frasca said. "I think the board should be setting an example."

 

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign welcomed the latest development in a drive to end the unlimited, boardroom-to-grave freebies that took off after a News report last month on the distribution of free E-ZPass tags.

 

"The MTA board has come to its senses, brought there by the Daily News exposé, the possibility of being sued by Attorney General [Andrew] Cuomo and the angry voices of its many riders," Russianoff said.

 

The proposal was put forth by MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger, but behind the scenes Friday, he called the recent spate of news reports on the freebies - and pay hikes to the cash-strapped authority's top executive - nothing more than "nonsense stories."

 

The system has never functioned so well and riders - who are getting a bargain - have never been safer or more satisfied, Hemmerdinger wrote in an e-mail sent to a top aide to Gov. Paterson, MTA board members and staffers.

 

"The politicians and press are focusing on little issues," the wealthy developer wrote. "So any help you can give us to get the real story out rather the current focus on the truly Insignificant issues would be great."

 

A spokeswoman for Paterson said Hemmerdinger's e-mail doesn't reflect how the governor feels about the importance of these issues. Hemmerdinger's spokesman declined to comment on the memo.

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