Back in June, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that 500 additional cops will be patrolling MTA subway stations throughout the city to combat crime. Local politicians think it unnecessary and have written to the Governor to say so. Recently subway cops have been in the news for punching Black teenagers in the subway, arresting one at gunpoint, aggressively manning subway entrances and issuing summons to occasional churro ladies.
This angered people all over the city and as a result, over 1,000 people gathered in Downtown Brooklyn last month to protest police brutality and the crackdown on MTA’s fare evasion. We wrote all about it here.
Today, several members of Congress and the Senate including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Jessica Ramos, State Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda, Rep. José E. Serrano, and State Senator Michael Gianaris, wrote and signed a letter to Cuomo urging him to reconsider his MTA policing approach at the budget vote on December 18.
“As the MTA prepares to vote on its annual budget on December 18th, we write to ask you for your attention regarding the MTA’s plan to hire five-hundred new police officers dedicated to low-level, victimless crimes in our subway,” the letter states. “In our view, desperately needed resources would be better invested in subway, bus, maintenance, and service improvements, as well as protecting riders and transit workers from assault rather than in the over-policing of our communities.”
“As the Transit Workers Union has noted, there are tangible, measurable threats to the safety of transit workers and passengers that require police attention,” the letter said while noting that there was an uptick in assaults on bus and subway workers.
On October 29, a man shouted the n-word at an MTA bus driver and spat on him, after allegedly getting upset when the driver told him to pay his fare. We reported the incident and have the video here. At the time, the MTA released a statement saying, “This is abhorrent, racist, and violent behavior, and any crimes committed should result in prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
In the letter to Cuomo, elected officials wrote, “Instead of patrolling the turnstile, existing police officers should focus on the threats faced by MTA employees. Utilization of a more finessed deployment approach that focuses on the reduction of assaults against transit operating personnel would protect workers and save the MTA sorely needed operating dollars, both in terms of less worker compensation costs and a need for less police officers.”
The letter also notes the racial disparities in enforcement, as people of color are mostly targetted. The videos that surfaced on social media are also noted in the letter, saying, “… communities of color, both MTA riders and workers, bear the brunt of over-policing.”
“Arresting hard-working people who cannot afford a $2.75 fare is, in effect, the criminalization of poverty. Further, it will be these same communities that will be most affected if the subway system is bankrupt or if there are additional route cuts,” the letter says. “Finally, we are urging the MTA to divest from this current model of criminalization and invest desperately needed resources in our buses and subways, and, most importantly, in those communities that need updated modes of transportation.”
“Better and greater modes of transportation grant access to economic opportunity and make NYC more equitable,” it says. “We hope you will join us in publically calling on the MTA to reconsider their policing approach and prioritize the concerns of MTA riders and workers at its budget vote on December 18.”
MTA Chairman Patrick Foye released the following statement regarding the letter:
“We will not engage in politics when it comes to public safety: New Yorkers deserve to have reliable service and feel secure on our system – these priorities are one and the same.”
”We are seeing vast improvements in subway on-time performance, but hate crimes have risen more than 50 percent, robbery is up 11.5 percent, aggravated harassment is up 167 percent and the TWU has reported an increase in assaults on workers of 39 percent. Adding additional uniformed police officers across the MTA will help ensure safety and quality of life for our eight million daily customers.”