Espada Calls for Audit of MTA

Says agency should look to its real estate holdings as a source of permanent revenue

You know you're in trouble when Pedro Espada is calling for an audit.

The  Bronx Democrat, who ignited the month-long Senate stalemate over the summer and has been the subject of several ethics investigations, has asked state Senate leaders to immediately commission an independent forensic audit of the MTA.

When the Senate approved the MTA bailout last spring, the chamber included a clause that authorizes the legislature to "commission an independent outside audit of Authority finances and operations."

The bill’s language mandates a 2009 audit. And now that the MTA has passed a doomsday budget plan to close the nearly $400 million 2010 budget gap, Espada says it's a good time to do it.

Espada said the MTA must fully account for its financial records before any action is taken that adversely affects the millions of consumers who rely on mass transit.

He had strong words for the MTA regarding its doomsday budget vote.

“No more blank checks -- we thought this message was clear to the MTA last spring when we enacted bailout legislation whose aid was based on MTA calculations," Espada said in a statement.

"Neither the State Legislature nor the public will allow the MTA to threaten its way to a blank check. The MTA is in this predicament because of its own miscalculations and inaccurate financial projections, and now it wants to lay blame on others and put the burden for its own mismanagement on school children, the handicapped, families and others who have already been severely hurt by the economic crisis," he said.

Espada has also sent a letter to MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder, pointing out the MTA's real estate empire as a long-term solution to its economic woes. He said leasing its holdings could provide a permanent source of revenue to the MTA and ensure that free transportation for thousands of school children remains a viable practice.

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