PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION ADVOCATES DECRY GOVERNOR CUOMO’S NEW PLAN TO OVERPOLICE TRANSIT SYSTEM

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[New York News\MTA]
Afua Atta-Mensah, Executive Director of Community Voices Heard: “The crackdown on low-income communities of color trying to access public transit must end. We cannot stand by as the MTA and the NYPD continue to criminalize poverty and harass working-class people. We are proud to stand with organizations and individuals who are fighting back against this onslaught. Together, we are all working to build a city that is accessible and affordable for all New Yorkers.”
Photo: courtesy Daniel Coates / Riders Alliance

NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, center, stands with transportation advocates fighting against Governor Cuomo's plan to hire more MTA police.

Transit riders, street vendors, progressive advocates, and elected officials joined in solidarity Monday, demanding that MTA resources not be diverted to policing from bus and subway service, and that existing enforcement efforts focus on serious crime rather than criminalizing low-income food vendors and teenagers traveling home from school.

With transit crime near its historic low and new cops far more likely to spend their time watching turnstiles or rounding up vendors than solving serious offenses, riders, vendors, advocates, and elected officials today condemned harsh policing practices and Governor Cuomo's plans to hire 500 additional MTA police officers.

Monday's rally called for more bus and subway service instead and demanded reformed policing practices. The Citizens Budget Commission found earlier this year that new cops would explode the MTA's already yawning budget deficit from $740 million to over $1 billion, imperilling the transit service that millions of New Yorkers depend on every single day.

"Subway crime is very low and falling. More cops will bust the MTA's budget and hurt vulnerable populations including low-income vendors like Elsa," said Riders Alliance Community Organizer Danna Dennis. "Governor Cuomo needs to focus on the MTA's core services and spend riders' money on subway and bus frequency not over-policing public transit."

Street vendors in NYC like Elsa are forced to deal with an outdated system limiting licenses and permits in that would allow them to work free from harassment. The Street Vendor Project demands the City to lift the cap on permits entirely so vendors can work legally and won’t be a victim of the broken window policy practiced by the NYPD that criminalizes low income riders and vendors alike,” said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, Deputy Director, Street Vendor Project.

The crackdown on low-income communities of color trying to access public transit must end,” said Afua Atta-Mensah, Executive Director of Community Voices Heard. “We cannot stand by as the MTA and the NYPD continue to criminalize poverty and harass working class people. We are proud to stand with organizations and individuals who are fighting back against this onslaught. Together, we are all working to build a city that is accessible and affordable for all New Yorkers.”

"CPC serves over 60,000 Asian American, immigrant, and low-income New Yorkers each year. Our community members face enormous barriers to pursuing the same hopes and dreams as other New Yorkers. Our communities struggle with limited English proficiency, health disparities, housing insecurity, undocumented immigration status, and much more. Unfortunately, the State has cut services, funding, and resources that empower our families and communities," said Amy Torres, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Chinese-American Planning Council. "Increased policing of the MTA is criminalizing low-income individuals and endangering our communities. Under the current 1996 'crimmigration' laws, even minor infractions like fare evasion can lead to deportation. CPC urges the Governor’s Office instead to invest resources in expanding social services and fixing the subway.”

The increased surveillance and police enforcement of the subway has turned it into a battleground for criminalizing poverty and demeaning low-income New Yorkers. We must invest our resources into repairing our broken transit system and growing the prosperity of our communities - not the policing of low-income riders and New Yorkers trying to make a living. I stand firmly with my colleagues, transit advocates, street vendors, and all working people in calling for justice,” said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx/Westchester).

"The subway over-policing captured on video in recent weeks at Broadway Junction, at Jay Street-MetroTech and around the city, shows how cruel and corrosive criminalizing poverty is. We should not be a city where we pay public servants to arrest people selling churros to support their families. The MTA is in desperate need of investment in better buses and more train service, not more cops and criminalization," said Council Member Brad Lander.

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