Judge in Station Agents Case Questions MTA Stance

The state judge hearing a case affecting hundreds of subway station agents reacted skeptically to the MTA's arguments in a court appearance today. Judge Salliann Scarpullo repeatedly asked the authority's lawyers why they didn't hold additional public hearings this year on their plans to close dozens more subway station booths.

While she didn't rule on the case yet, she said the public may have wanted to speak out again after the MTA decided in December to close the booths more quickly by laying off the agents who work in them, as opposed to waiting until the agents retired as originally planned last May.

The MTA's general counsel, Jim Henly, argued the public hearings held in January 2009 should have sufficed because the locations of the booths to be closed haven't changed. He said the MTA needs the flexibility to determine the manner of closing them.

The union for the agents brought the case last week just before 475 agents were to be laid off. The MTA went through with laying off 260 of them on Tuesday but is keeping the other ones employed to staff the booths until the case gets settled.

The MTA says it's costing $40,000 a day to keep the remaining agents employed to staff the booths in question.