Offenders Charged with Attacking a Transportation Worker Would Be Subject to a Class D Felony
Expands Category of Workers Covered by Current Protections to Include Workers with State DOT, Thruway Authority, Municipalities and Airports Statewide
Increases The Types of Workers Within the MTA Who Are Protected
Authorizes Governor's Traffic Safety Committee to Implement Public Education Campaign on Work Zone Safety
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the FY 2020 Executive Budget includes new measures to protect transportation workers in New York State against assault. Under the new provisions, offenders charged with attacking transportation workers would be subject to a Class D felony, which is punishable by a mandatory term of imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine of up to $5,000. Currently, only certain employees with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are covered by these protections. The Governor's proposal would increase the types of workers within the MTA who are protected. It would also for the first time include an expanded category of workers covered by these protections, including highway workers and contractors with the State Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority, municipal highway workers and contractors, as well as workers at airports statewide. In addition, the proposal would mandate that any motorists who endanger highway workers with an unauthorized intrusion into an active work zone would be subject to a term of up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
"New York has zero tolerance for anyone who flagrantly puts the lives and safety of transportation workers in jeopardy," Governor Cuomo said. "By strengthening existing penalties and expanding the categories of workers included in these protections, we will prevent future assaults, ensure the safety of New York's transportation workers and provide law enforcement the tools they need to hold offenders accountable."
Current NYS Penal Law states that assaulting certain MTA employees such as train operators, bus operators, ticket inspectors, conductors and station agents is a Class D felony punishable for up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The proposal in the FY 2020 Executive Budget would expand the scope of MTA workers protected under the law to include station customer assistants; any individual whose responsibilities include sale of tickets or collection of fare to ride a train or bus; individuals whose official duties include the maintenance, repair, inspection, troubleshooting, testing or cleaning of a transit signal system, elevated or underground subway tracks, transit station structure, or train yard; and passenger service employees.
The legislation also extends the same protections to workers and contractors with the State DOT and Thruway Authority, municipal highway workers and contractors, as well as airport workers across the state, including terminal cleaners, cabin cleaners, facilities cleaners, wheelchair assist employees, baggage handlers, skycaps, ticket agents, customer services employees, security guards, queue management employees, shuttle bus drivers or any employee whose duties require working on the tarmac. The workers covered would include those employed by any airport, airport authority or company/vendor - public or private - that performs these services at an airport in the State of New York.
MTA acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer said, "Our transit workers move millions of New Yorkers each day and deserve full protection while they are doing their job. This budget delivers much-needed protection so our workers can better focus on repairing and improving the biggest and most complex transportation system in the country."
State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, "The Executive Budget proposes common sense solutions to ensure the safety of the traveling public and those who work to maintain our vast transportation system. I can't stress enough the need for motorists to slow down, calm down and drive with caution in highway work zones across the State."
Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, "Each day, roadside workers risk their lives to ensure roads are safe for all motorists. We are grateful for Governor Cuomo's leadership in introducing legislation in the 2019-20 Executive Budget that protects our hardworking and dedicated employees who are just trying to do their jobs. These increased penalties will send a clear message to all drivers that they must use due care when behind the wheel, or they will face stiff penalties for not following the law."
Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said, "The safe and efficient operation of the Port Authority's airports hinges on a stable, motivated and well-protected workforce, which can enhance overall security efforts and assist customers in an experienced, knowledgeable and positive fashion. Combined with last year's approval of a substantially improved minimum wage for airport workers, offering these employees further safeguards from potential assaults will greatly reduce turnover, improve morale and develop better trained workers as critical contributors to airport operations and security in this post-9/11 world."
Acting DMV Commissioner and Acting GTSC Chair Mark J.F. Schroeder said, "The jobs these highway workers do benefit all who use New York's roads, and they deserve to be able to do their work safely. They have families who want them to come home at the end of the day, and that is a message we should all embrace. We are proud to partner with DOT and others to educate the motoring public and do all we can to protect our highway workers."
CSEA President Danny Donohue said, "We applaud the Governor for doing more to protect transportation workers and educate the public about the importance of work zone safety. Our workers put their lives on the line every day to keep our roads safe and we support any efforts to help protect them."
In recent years, there has been an alarming number of reported highway worker assaults and motorist intrusions in work zones. Similar instances have been reported on facilities owned and operated by local governments and public authorities, which are also covered under the proposed legislation. From 2014 to 2017, the DOT reported 610 work zone intrusions, which have included speeding motorists passing flaggers and driving through work zones.
Legislation included in the FY 2020 Executive Budget would also direct the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee to implement a public education and outreach program to increase motorist awareness of the importance of highway work zones, increase and promote work zone safety and reduce the number of work zone incidents, including speeding, unauthorized intrusion into work zones and any conduct resulting in threats or injuries to highway workers.
Last year, NYSDOT and the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee unveiled a new public service announcement and social media campaign focused on the importance of respecting flagging personnel. The PSA work zone safety campaign, "Flaggers have families too," is designed to remind motorists that flagging personnel are not attempting to disrupt traffic - they are simply doing their jobs and want to get home safely at the end of each work day. The PSA can be viewed here and here.