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MTA sounds alarm about cash shortfall for transit improvements

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NEW YORK -- Stop the Second Avenue subway? Count out the countdown clocks? No more new train cars?

MTA officials are sounding the alarm about funding for capital projects.

At a barbershop on Second Avenue at 116th Street, staff and clients expected their hair to go gray before the subway project continues to East Harlem.

Testifying before the New York City Council Finance and Transportation Committees, MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said the city's growth could be constrained without investments from the city, state and other stakeholders (including the real estate industry).

Councilmembers asked the chairman for more details on the city's contributions to the MTA. Prendergast described it as a trillion-dollar assest.

Improvement projects may be the first items taken off the table if the next five-year capital plan is not funded. In the past, some projects have been partially funded or delayed. Projects also include maintaining the system and keeping it in good repair.

The legislative session is set to be done in June and the city budget is due July 1. The city has pledged $125 million, after budgeting $100 million in previous years.

Prendergast said he was heading back to Albany to continue negotiations with the Governor's office and legislative leaders after the council hearings.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Julissa Ferreras asked the MTA to provide financial information and criticized the agency for changing the amount of money it requested from the city to $300 million.

Prendergast took responsibility for the discrepancy and blamed the different budget cycles.

Both Councilmember Ferreras and Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer asked for improved service along the No. 7 line in Queens as upgrades, closures and delays continue. Transit has announced a special line review for the 6, 7 and F lines.

Councilmember Corey Johnson asked for an opening date of the No. 7 train extension to Manhattan's westside. Johnson cited that project, which was paid for with city funds, as a reason to question the MTA. Initially, the opening was promised in 2013. Mayor Mike Bloomberg went for a ceremonial ride in December 2013.

Chairman Prendergast would not give a specific opening date for the extension project. He said it could be July or as late as October 2015. Employee training began this weekend, according to a video released by the agency.

He said delays were embarrassing and the goal is to be more realistic with dates and expectations.

Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Antonio Reyonoso addressed transportation needs in parts of Brooklyn. Transportation Committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez joined them in expressing support for MTA investments.