Brooklyn, we have a problem.
The MTA spent $86 million on a state-of-the-art, NASA-like “bus command center” that has gone unused for more than two years because it’s already falling apart, The Post has learned.
Transit officials have said the eastern Brooklyn command center, which replaces a smaller facility across the street, will serve as a “war room” for bus dispatchers. But the building has sat empty since former Transit President Andy Byford and other big-wigs held a celebratory ribbon cutting there in June 2019.
With the building at Jamaica Avenue and Fanchon Place having suffered leaks, faulty heating and bug-infested bathrooms, dispatchers who are supposed to work there have refused to relocate from across the street, sources said.
The ribbon Byford cut with then-MTA Buses President Darryl Irick in 2019 said “grand opening,” but dispatchers only started to move into the building last winter, sources said. That lasted only a few months because the heat did not work and the building’s electrical system couldn’t handle the worker’s space heaters.
The MTA has not communicated plans for when the building will reopen.
“It’s falling apart. It had roof leaks. The place is empty and the employees refuse to work there,” said one bus worker. “They have to put in electric heaters just to keep warm.”
MTA officials have promised to hire additional dispatchers to fill the new command center’s massive theater, but photos obtained by The Post show the so-called “war room” empty — with the computers running and cable playing on the TVs.
“They’re keeping the heating and ventilation system running. They can’t let it freeze up. They’re paying thousands of dollars in cable bills with TVs on and no one’s there,” said the source. “It’s a brand new building and it looks horrible.”
“That place has been a mess since it started,” said another worker, who shared photos of dropped ceilings, an infested bathroom and cracked glass in a section of the building meant to protect workers from chemical attacks.
The command center was initially supposed to cost $55 million and wrap up in 2017. Completion was ultimately kicked to June 2019 due to issues with the building’s drainage and sprinkler systems.
The building was constructed by MPCC Corp., a contracting company based in Westchester County.
A related project to upgrade the MTA’s bus radio system has been repeatedly delayed, in part due to “poor contractor quality/productivity,” according to publicly available MTA board materials. Once slated to cost $283 million, the radio project cost has increased to $294 as of November 2020.
MTA rep Aaron Donovan said the command center is now set to open “in the first half of next year.”
“The upgraded Bus Command Center is the first part of a complex project to improve service for bus customers by bringing our service management into the 21st century with a state-of-the-art bus radio system,” Donovan said in a statement. “Like most of the capital program, the project was temporarily placed on pause during the pandemic.”
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