De Blasio's Subway Follies

It seems like a rerun -– but maybe this time, people will have learned their lesson.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Chairman Joe Lhota aren’t getting along too well these days. Lhota, who ran on the Republican ticket for mayor four years ago and was unfortunately defeated by de Blasio, is now again challenging de Blasio on a new quality of life issue -- subway garbage, which has become such a problem that it caused a major subway track fire last week, resulting in many injuries and awful transit delays. (There are numerous New York City subway track fires per year.) 

Lhota was recently tasked to clean up the MTA -- after having manned the MTA’s infrastructure restoration following Hurricane Sandy -- and one of the ideas he floated was to restrict eating on the subway. The subway already has a disgusting excess of garbage and rats, and it was garbage littered onto the tracks in a Harlem subway station which caused the recent track fire and massive delays.

Lhota’s suggestion certainly sounds reasonable. It will not solve all subway problems, but it may prevent some of them and can thus make subway travel safer and cleaner. Seeing that New York City has been experiencing a terrible decline in quality of life -- not to mention a spike in subway crime -- one would expect de Blasio to reply to Lhota, “Thanks, Joe. Wish I would have thought of that myself.”

Instead, de Blasio rejected Lhota’s idea and responded:

"From 1979 to 1999, I did not own a car and got around almost exclusively by subway -- it would have been in those years inconceivable to not be able to eat on the subway, just because of life. Because we’re all incredibly busy in the city, because the time on the subway is often the only time you have to eat… I don’t think it’s fair to people to say you can’t eat on the subway… I think in a lot of ways we need to encourage people to not be sloppy when they’re on the subway, but I can’t imagine personally the idea of people not being allowed to eat on the subway in a place as busy as this.”

What? Not fair? And it is fair to engage in a practice that endangers and bothers other riders, creates messes, and invites rats?

I personally have a very busy job and a very busy life in New York City, and I take a long subway ride to and from work each day, yet I somehow never felt a need to eat my breakfast or dinner on the subway. What’s de Blasio talking about?

And now, de Blasio is being attacked by both New York State Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and by the MTA’s Republican Chairman Joe Lhota for refusing to adequately fund the subway system. Rather than contribute some of the city’s $4 billion surplus toward subway funding, de Blasio rejected the idea, as he instead continues to generously pour the city’s money largely into the cups of special interest groups (with the help of the socialist City Council speaker, Maria Mark-Viverito).

De Blasio, the far left, liberal-progressive mayor, whose basic platform has been one of assisting the underclass to the exclusion of all others, does not even take subways anymore. He instead is driven (and flown) around, including a daily chauffeured SUV ride to a gym very far from the mayoral mansion. Contrast this with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took the subway to work and back every day (and who opted not to live at Gracie Mansion, in order to save the city money), and Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, who regularly took his son to baseball games via the subway.  

Like many leftists, whose economic policies are not geared toward the interests of the majority and are instead focused almost entirely on those who receive public assistance, de Blasio is an elitist whose personal lifestyle is anything but like the lifestyle of those whom he purports to help. And, similar to many leftists, the mayor’s work ethic has so many gaping holes.

The dispute between Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio is not only about subway food and funding, but is reflective of a far more profound discussion regarding personal values and self-sacrifice. In Proverbs, King Solomon tells us that laziness and self-indulgence breed inefficiency and ultimately result in destruction. Joe Lhota understands this; even Andrew Cuomo seems to get it, as much as we reject his socially liberal views. De Blasio, though, hasn’t got a clue.  

Avrohom Gordimer is a senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thought.  He serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine; is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website; and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News, Yated Ne'eman, and a host of other publications.  He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan.  The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.