More than three dozen organizations sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo on Thursday demanding he reverse a recent decision to deploy 1,000 additional police officers into the subway to tackle “quality of life” crimes like fare evasion.
Several of the groups staged a rally led by Riders Alliance outside of the governor’s Midtown office shortly before the letter was sent, shouting “Stop the hate! Fix the subway!”
“We’re recognizing the fact that the MTA, [NYC Transit President] Andy Byford as well as Gov. Cuomo are trying to scapegoat communities of color in their attempt to avoid accountability for their malfunctioning and dysfunctional subway system and buses,” said Legal Aid Society attorney Anne Oredeko, who pointed out that people of color account for an overwhelming majority of those arrested for fare evasion.
NYPD spokeswoman Sergeant Mary O’Donnell said cops are just doing their jobs when they arrest fare beaters. She also noted that the majority of those caught skipping turnstiles are not arrested and are given summonses instead.
Byford told the Daily News that he and his team has “made it very clear to our partners at the NYPD that there is to be no targeting of any socio-economic group.”
“We don’t see any merit in trying to arrest our way out of the problem,” said Byford, who pointed out that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is estimated to lose as much as $300 million to fare beaters in 2019.
Still, the advocates’ letter argued that the money spent on police officers would be better used to plug the MTA’s massive operating deficit, which is expected to hit $1 billion by 2022 and could impede the agency’s ability to provide quality service.
Byford said fare evasion is only a small part of the agency’s financial woes, and said he is ramping up his efforts to call for an “additional, sustainable revenue stream” to pay for the subway and bus systems.
Cuomo spokesman Patrick Muncie took a similar stance on the issue, arguing that the money lost to fare beaters “negatively impacts our transit system.”
“The NYPD and MTA’s enforcement should be applied fairly and consistently,” Muncie said.