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Watchdogs urged to probe MTA for driving up stats on power issues


Good government groups have urged state watchdogs to probe the MTA to see if transit officials pushed analysts to inflate the number of “power-related” delays in order to pin subway problems on Con Edison.

Reinvent Albany and New York Public Interest Research Group made the request in letters to the state controller and Authorities Budget Office after the Daily News reported this month that a senior NYC Transit official pressed staff in emails in July and August to raise the number.

Transit analysts had found that power problems only caused about 8,000 delays in a year, with Con Ed on the hook for just 3,422 of those delays.

But emails showed staff produced a larger 32,000 delay figure by widening the definition of “power-related” to cover problems outside Con Ed’s control — like emergencies where power to the tracks was cut.

The senior NYC Transit official, chief of staff Naomi Renek, worked with press aides to Gov. Cuomo, one of whom asked how to “massage” the language around the inflated figure, the emails showed.

Reinvent Albany’s John Kaehny and NYPIRG’s Gene Russianoff asked in their letter for a probe into whether transit officials tried to “manipulate, fabricate or otherwise mischaracterize” stats.

They also want to know if MTA officials or the governor’s office pushed staff to produce “misleading or false numbers.”

Transit analysts had found that power problems only caused about 8,000 delays and Con Ed for just 3,422 of those delays in a year.

(Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The two advocates also asked for recommendations to “ensure that MTA performance reporting is solely based on facts and not on internal or external political pressure.”

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota defended the way power-related delays are calculated and said the numbers were not improperly inflated. Lhota told agency board members last week that the governor’s office requested a figure for delays that covered “all power-related issues,” covering any incident that involves electricity.

“The people at Con Ed have been incredible partners in fixing the subway system for riders,” MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein said. “This was simply the addition of all power-related delays and service disruptions and we categorically reject the idea that there was a ‘push’ to do anything untoward.”

A spokesman for DiNapoli said the office had yet to receive the request.

Authorities Budget Office Director Jeffrey Pearlman said the letter has been received and if it decides to take up the request, it’ll issue a report.