Our 09/25/17 Testimony to MTA Board on Gateway Towers, ABO Complaint


Reinvent Albany testified at today’s hearing of the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Committee. We asked whether the MTA board met its fiduciary duty when it approved spending for the building and installation of decorative Gateway Towers without a budget for the towers. As of today, the towers, which are stainless steel pylons installed at the entrances to all nine MTA bridges and tunnels, have already cost $47m.

Testimony​ ​of​ ​Liz​ ​Marcello,​ ​Reinvent​ ​Albany To​ ​Bridges​ ​and​ ​Tunnels​ ​Committee​ ​of​ ​the​ ​MTA

Regarding​ ​Gateway​ ​Towers,​ ​Budgeting​ ​and​ ​Procurement

September​ ​25,​ ​2017

Good​ ​afternoon,​ ​I​ ​am​ ​Liz​ ​Marcello,​ ​Campaign​ ​Director​ ​of​ ​Reinvent Albany.​ ​We​ ​advocate​ ​for​ ​more​ ​transparent​ ​and​ ​accountable​ ​state government​ ​—​ ​including​ ​for​ ​state​ ​authorities​ ​like​ ​the​ ​MTA.

First,​ ​I​ ​want​ ​to​ ​thank​ ​you​ ​for​ ​your​ ​service.​ ​Reinvent​ ​Albany appreciates​ ​that​ ​you,​ ​the​ ​MTA​ ​board,​ ​are​ ​volunteers​ ​and​ ​are​ ​given​ ​large amounts​ ​of​ ​complex​ ​policy​ ​and​ ​budget​ ​information​ ​to​ ​review​ ​on​ ​your​ ​own.

That​ ​said,​ ​this​ ​board​ ​has​ ​a​ ​fiduciary​ ​duty​ ​to​ ​the​ ​MTA​ ​and​ ​people​ ​of New​ ​York​ ​to​ ​fully​ ​examine​ ​and​ ​understand​ ​the​ ​matters​ ​before​ ​it,​ ​and​ ​to​ ​be fully​ ​informed​ ​before​ ​approving​ ​contracts​ ​and​ ​spending.​ ​Being​ ​fully informed​ ​means​ ​that​ ​the​ ​MTA​ ​board​ ​should​ ​know​ ​the​ ​total​ ​cost​ ​of​ ​projects and​ ​establish​ ​project​ ​budgets.

Does​ ​it?​ ​To​ ​date,​ ​this​ ​committee​ ​has​ ​approved​ ​$47​ ​million​ ​of spending​ ​for​ ​tasks​ ​related​ ​to​ ​building​ ​and​ ​installing​ ​decorative​ ​Gateway Towers​ ​at​ ​entrances​ ​to​ ​bridges​ ​and​ ​tunnels.​ ​However,​ ​Gateway​ ​Towers​ ​do not​ ​exist​ ​as​ ​a​ ​single​ ​Project​ ​and​ ​do​ ​not​ ​have​ ​a​ ​single​ ​or​ ​individual​ ​budgets. Further,​ ​in​ ​June​ ​board​ ​materials,​ ​Gateway​ ​Towers​ ​Tasks​ ​were​ ​budgeted​ ​at $20​ ​million​ ​and​ ​in​ ​September​ ​$47​ ​million.

​​How​ ​much​ ​will​ ​these​ ​Towers​ ​ultimately​ ​cost​ ​the​ ​people​ ​of​ ​New​ ​York? $75​ ​million,​ ​$100​ ​million?​ ​Does​ ​this​ ​Committee​ ​know?

Earlier​ ​this​ ​month,​ ​Reinvent​ ​Albany​ ​filed​ ​a​ ​complaint​ ​with​ ​the Authorities​ ​Budget​ ​Office​ ​asking​ ​ABO​ ​to​ ​determine​ ​whether​ ​the​ ​board​ ​of the​ ​MTA​ ​have​ ​fulfilled​ ​their​ ​fiduciary​ ​duty​ ​in​ ​matters​ ​related​ ​to​ ​the​ ​NY Crossings​ ​initiative.

We​ ​asked​ ​whether​ ​the​ ​board​ ​​fully​ ​examined​ ​and​ ​understood​ ​what​ ​it was​ ​funding​ ​before​ ​approving​ ​contract​ ​amendments​ ​​for​ ​Gateway​ ​Towers, and​ ​questioned​ ​how​ ​the​ ​board​ ​can​ ​approve​ ​large​ ​expenditures​ ​without having​ ​a​ ​total,​ ​final​ ​budget​ ​target.

​​Additionally,​ ​we​ ​asked​ ​ABO​ ​to​ ​investigate​ ​whether​ ​the​ ​MTA​ ​board and​ ​staff​ ​approved​ ​contracts​ ​related​ ​to​ ​NY​ ​Crossings​ ​in​ ​a​ ​manner​ ​that​ ​is consistent​ ​with​ ​the​ ​MTA’s​ ​procurement​ ​rules.​ ​​​Specifically,​ ​did​ ​the​ ​board and​ ​staff​ ​follow​ ​Article​ ​III​ ​part​ ​B5​ ​of​ ​the​ ​rules,​ ​which​ ​requires​ ​a​ ​resolution by​ ​the​ ​Board​ ​when​ ​a​ ​Rider​ ​is​ ​made​ ​to​ ​an​ ​existing​ ​General​ ​Contract,​ ​and​ ​a determination​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Board​ ​that​ ​includes​ ​the​ ​reasons​ ​why​ ​it​ ​is​ ​in​ ​the​ ​public interest​ ​to​ ​amend​ ​an​ ​existing​ ​contract​ ​instead​ ​of​ ​securing​ ​a​ ​service​ ​or product​ ​through​ ​a​ ​competitive​ ​process.

Lastly,​ ​we​ ​asked​ ​ABO​ ​to​ ​look​ ​at​ ​MTA’s​ ​dubious​ ​practice​ ​of​ ​describing generations​ ​of​ ​contract​ ​amendments​ ​as​ ​“competitively”​ ​awarded.​ ​Our complaint​ ​uses​ ​the​ ​tens​ ​of​ ​millions​ ​in​ ​Gateway​ ​Towers​ ​expenses​ ​as examples​ ​of​ ​Tasks​ ​that​ ​have​ ​nothing​ ​to​ ​do​ ​with​ ​the​ ​original​ ​contract requirements.

We​ ​filed​ ​this​ ​complaint​ ​because​ ​we​ ​believe​ ​there​ ​is​ ​something fundamentally​ ​wrong​ ​with​ ​how​ ​this​ ​board​ ​approves​ ​contracts​ ​and expenditures.​ ​You​ ​vote​ ​to​ ​approve​ ​contracts​ ​without​ ​setting​ ​a​ ​budget​ ​for​ ​NY Crossings​ ​or​ ​its​ ​component​ ​costs,​ ​including​ ​the​ ​decorative​ ​Gateway​ ​Towers, which​ ​have​ ​already​ ​cost​ ​$47​ ​million,​ ​yet​ ​have​ ​no​ ​cap.

Thank​ ​you.


Click here to view the testimony as a PDF.