In a study released yesterday, MTA officials have named free, hand-distributed tabloids like Metro and amNew York as the chief culprits behind subway floods. The statement, needless to say, reverberated around the papers in question — and their competitors — this morning. It would, however, be useful to recall that after the most infamous recent floods, in September 2004, the MTA invoked not the Fourth Estate but rather the Lord Almighty as the perp. (There was a lot of rain as a result of Hurricane Frances.) And, indeed, the transit authority's own inspector general earlier this year rattled off the following list of shortcomings:
• There'd been "historic neglect" of valves.
• First responders were reduced to arriving at flooded subway sites by subway, which took hours. Some of them never even made it.
• MTA failed to set up a clear-cut center of command for the cleanup effort.
• Trash and muck, including — but by no means limited to — newspapers, free and otherwise, had clogged the drains.
Of course, the MTA likes to blame things on the free tabs. Back in February, the authority was saying the giveaways were responsible for increased track fires, too — until someone noticed that the number of blazes is actually falling. An NYC Transit spokesperson says there were 556 fires this year to date, versus last year's 696 over the same time period. Damn you, free papers.