Big wigs are immune from congestion tax in New York City
WCBS-TV (New York)
NEW YORK (CBS) ― While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority pleads poverty and says it has to raise your fares and tolls, a CBS 2 HD investigation uncovered tens of thousands of chosen bureaucrats who are getting a free ride.
It's an appalling investigation that led David Moretti, the head of the MTA's Bridge and Tunnel division to avoid being questioned by CBS 2 HD. Moretti was so anxious to get away from CBS 2 HD cameras, in fact, that he hid in a classroom for 45 minutes before a scheduled MTA fare hike hearing.
What was he hiding from? He's running from questions about free rides.
At a time when the agency wants to raise fares, it's giving free orange EZ passes to nearly 24,000 people to get across the MTA's nine bridges and tunnels. That's 3.3 million trips.
"It's outrageous. It makes me completely angry," says Jana Glowatz of East Meadow.
Councilman Michael McMahon, D-Staten Island, testified passionately against the fare hike. He was stunned to learn of the free pass scheme.
"That's the most outrageous thing I've ever heard, and if it's true, whoever's doing it should go to jail," he said.
After four months of CBS 2 HD demanding information and answers, the MTA said they couldn't or wouldn't identify most of the people who have the freebies.
But in CBS 2 HD's investigation, it was discovered that nearly 1,000 retired bridge and tunnel workers have lifetime free passes instituted when the spans were first built. Former board members 52, and present board members have 34.
The big wigs can have as many as they want. Former MTA chair Peter Kalikow has eight, former member Richard Nasti has four, and six former board members each have three.
"That makes it even more clear they're not entitled to a fare hike, they're mismanaging and obviously stealing from taxpayers," says McMahon.
Kalikow tells CBS 2 HD he has eight passes because he's a car collector, while Nasti, despite MTA records, says he really only has two.
Both men claim they are the sole users.
And just for the record, MTA executive director Elliot Sander doesn't have a free pass and newly installed MTA chairman Dale Hemmer Ginger has two.
When Moretti finally came out of hiding, CBS 2 HD asked him how he thought the public would react to the freebies.
"That's really up to the public to decide, I wouldn't speculate on it," he said.
New Yorkers left no need to speculate.
"If they're actually giving their own employees free rides then why can't we have them?" asks Brooklyn resident William Peace.
Adds Queens resident Gene Martial: "Give the commuters back the money."
Transit advocates say the MTA should conduct a full-scale investigation to find out who has the free passes and if they're being absued.
CBS 2 HD intends to continue asking questions about it as well.
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