Letter: City set to lose out on $19M in discretionary federal grant money

MTA, buses
Photo Pablo D. Castillo Jr.

To the Editor,

On April 6, the Federal Transit Administration published Federal Notice of Available Funding for Federal Fiscal Year 2021. The accompanying tables by funding programs make for very interesting reading. Gov. Hochul, Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand, members of the New York congressional delegation, Mayor Eric Adams, city DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and other elected officials constantly complain that Washington shortchanges NYC and the MTA. Yet none of them has ever said a word about the following.

There are still two Federal Transit Administration (FTA) discretionary funded project allocations worth a total of $19 million that city DOT has yet to secure under approved grants. They include: under Table 5 Prior Year Unobligated 5739(b) Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Allocations: (1) 2019 — NYD2019-BUS C-065 NYCDOT Safe Routes to Transit project to make infrastructure, pedestrian safety and accessibility improvements for transit riders along 86th Street in Brooklyn – $9 million and (2)  FY 2020 — NY2020-Bus C-163 NYCDOT South Bronx BZ 6 Select Bus Service – $10 million.

DOT should have previously submitted grant applications for these funds. Why has DOT been unsuccessful in having these funds obligated under approved grants? Has DOT entered formal grants in FTA’s Transit Award Management System (known as “TrAMS”), used to award and manage federal grants. If so, have they failed to answer all of FTA’s concerns and issues as part of any ongoing grant review? These funds will lapse in September 2023 and be lost.

City DOT is in intense competition against transit agencies from other cities and states around the nation. It hurts NYC, the MTA and Metro NY area, when DOT leaves these discretionary dollars on the table year after year. Our congressional delegation loses credibility when lobbying for more transit dollars. There is no incentive for Washington to approve additional discretionary transit dollars. As each year goes by, the project cost also tends to increase. The dollar value of the earmark does not. In the end, taxpayers and commuters are the losers. When will Mayor Adams and city DOT Commissioner Rodriguez make this a priority and secure funds?

Larry Penner

More from Around NYC