Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Cuomo: Stop Criminalizing Poverty with Your ‘Dangerous’ Subway Cop Plan

Cops and cops and cops and cops are all over the subways. Photo: Caitlin Plaut
Cops and cops and cops and cops are all over the subways. Photo: Caitlin Plaut

Gov. Cuomo’s obsession with hiring 500 more unaccountable cops to supposedly crack down on fare evasion is now a national embarrassment.

Three members of Congress — including firebrand progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — are demanding that Cuomo withdraw the plan for the cash-strapped MTA to spend $250 million on more police because it is racially biased, not cost effective and, frankly, unnecessary.

“Punishing the poor does not create a safer environment,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted as she released the letter, co-signed by Rep. Jose Serrano of the Bronx and Rep. Jerry Nadler of Manhattan. “Instead it threatens the very foundation of our community.”

She called on Cuomo to “put an end to MTA’s dangerous policing policy.” The letter is also signed by five New York State senators: Alessandra Biaggi, Jessica Ramos, Michael Gianaris, Julia Salazar and Luis Sepulveda.

The governor has called for more cops underground in combat a supposed increase in assaults on transit employees and to deter fare evasion. But former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said subway crime is actually decreasing. And the overall cost of the new cops would exceed the amount that is allegedly being lost to fare evasion. And police are often revealed on social media acting aggressively towards young people of color or non-violent food vendors. All of those points made by the politicians’ letter.

“In our view, desperately needed resources would be better invested in subway, bus, maintenance and service improvements … rather than in the over-policing of our communities.”

It’s obviously not the first time Gov. Cuomo’s position has been under fire — or put him in league with longtime foes. Cuomo’s usual punching bag, Mayor de Blasio, said in November that the idea of more subway police “was a very good thing.”

Most notably, Laura Ingraham used her Fox News show to play a series of clips of the governor talking about how dangerous the subway was, and praised Cuomo’s push for more cops and then let convicted felon Bernard Kerik spout conspiracy theories. Ingraham called the plan to add 500 MTA police “mild, but necessary” and said that “no one wants to ride the subway” these days (subway ridership surpassed six million people per day six different times in October, the first time multiple six million-plus rider days have happened in over two years).

In a statement, MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye blasted the lawmakers for playing “politics”:

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.

The agency also sent over a list of links to press coverage of roughly 40 crimes — some violent, some merely graffiti — in the subway and rail system dating back to Nov. 1, which is more than 46 days ago.

Not to be outdone, Riders Alliance followed the MTA statement with a statement of its own — in support of the pols’ letter.

“Momentum is building fast against the governor’s proposal for an expensive new police force the MTA can’t afford and riders don’t need,” the group said in a statement. “Yesterday, the city’s MTA appointees unanimously announced their vote against the MTA budget because of its investment in new police over riders. Today, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and seven other elected officials implored Gov. Cuomo in a letter to stop the hire.

“Riders and our representatives are speaking loud and clear: No New Cops, We Need a Service Hike.”

The group was expected to rally with elected officials and advocates at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at Bowling Green.

The group’s spokesman, Danny Pearlstein, personally disputed Foye’s comment.

“More-frequent trains would mean shorter waits and less crowding, making the subway even safer,” he said. “As NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill and NYCT President Andy Byford both recently affirmed, the subway is already safe.

“Five hundred more police officers, spread across 472 stations, more than 5,000 buses, and a whole city, will not transform the feel of public transit. They will however make it harder for the MTA to meet demand for transit service that 8.6 million New Yorkers depend on every day,” he concluded.

We’ve reached out to the governor’s office and will update this story if we hear back.

The full text of the letter is below:

cuomo letter 1

cuomo letter 2

cuomo letter 3

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