June 17, 2019
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Agreement to Add 500 Additional Uniformed Officers to NYC Subway and Bus Systems to Improve Public Safety, Protect Workers and Combat Fare Evasion

TOP Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript:...

Comprehensive Action Plan by NYS, NYC, Manhattan DA, NYPD, MTA, and TWU

   

Assaults Reported by NYCT Workers Up 15% in Four Years

 

Lost Revenue from Fare Evasion Increased from $105 Million in 2015 to $225 Million in 2018; Trend Continues with New Data Released Today Showing $243 Million in Revenue Was Lost in Latest 12 Months

WYSIWYG

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced an agreement to add 500 additional uniformed officers to the New York City Transit system. The agreement was reached with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill, and MTA Chairman Pat Foye as part of a comprehensive action plan to improve safety across New York City's mass transit system, address the rising number of assaults on transit workers and combat the growing problem of fare evasion. From 2013 and 2017, assaults reported by New York City Transit workers have increased by 15.2 percent, and lost revenue from fare evasion increased from $105 million in 2015 to $225 million in 2018. New data released today shows the upward trend is continuing with year to date totals reaching $243 million in the 12-month period ending in March 2019. The new program also includes additional measures to deter fare evasion with enhanced exit gates and additional monitors and cameras throughout the system. As part of this plan, the New York County District Attorney will provide $40 million over four years to fund associated costs of the personnel and provide construction modifications and new video technology to target station locations.

 

VIDEO of today's event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

 

AUDIO of today's event is available here.

 

PHOTOS of today's event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

 

A rush transcript of remarks is available below:

 

Governor Cuomo: Good morning everyone. It's still morning, just a long morning. Let me introduce my guests. To my left, a man who needs no introduction, New York City District Attorney Cy Vance. I want to thank him very much for being here today and thank him for all the good work that he and his office have been doing on this issue. To my right, another man who needs no introduction, Pat Foye, Chairman and CEO of the MTA.

 

The issue today to talk about is the MTA. As everyone knows, or some people know who've been following, the legislative session is about to come to a close this week. I say that with mixed emotions. It's been a highly productive legislative session, I believe it's been one of the most productive legislative sessions in modern political history, in terms of passing progressive measures. And we came to more agreements over the weekend. And it's going to be extraordinary what we accomplished.

 

One of the main items we talked about during this legislative session was the MTA, and the Legislature dealt with it extensively. The MTA is vital to downstate New York, the entire region. About one half of the people in the State of New York use the MTA, isn't that amazing? About one half of the people. So, and there's no doubt that the MTA needs major reform and needed additional funding. The Legislature passed unprecedented funding measures, so-called congestion pricing or Central Business District Tolling, which is the first in the nation, it's revolutionary. It's not just a tolling mechanism, it's actually a traffic and volume control mechanism. It's going to encourage more people to use mass transit and we are very excited about that.

 

The MTA also raised fares and the fare increases will be capped at 2 percent. But there's been a major investment by the riders and the taxpayers in the MTA. The Central Business District Tolling added to the tolling, some of the tax revenues that New Yorkers are paying. So now it's not just the riders that are subsidizing the MTA, it's the riders and the people of New York City. We also said from day one, just funding alone is not going to solve the problem. Throwing money at a problem very seldom solves it unless you have made the management reforms necessary to go along with the funding. I believe the MTA had a funding issue. I believe the MTA fundamentally has a management issue and has had it for many, many years. And the legislature said, we will agree to additional funding, on behalf of the taxpayers, but we want to make the necessary reforms, also, to the MTA. And the legislature passed the most aggressive legislative reforms on the MTA probably since the MTA was created. We passed the debarment law. The MTA has a bad habit of always contracting with the same contractors, many of whom have failed in the past, but they just keep contracting with the same bad contractor. Why? Got me. Politics, incestuousness, revolving door. I don't know what it is. But the legislature passed a law saying you cannot do that anymore, period—or you violate the law.

 

The legislature passed a law saying they have to use what's called design-build, which means the MTA no longer designs the contract. They bid it out to a private developer, builder, who does the design and construction. We've used it all across the state. It's worked extraordinarily well. We've used it on the old Tappan Zee Bridge—$4 billion, largest infrastructure project in the United States of America, it worked well. And I'll tell you what doesn't work well: when the MTA itself designs and builds a project. That does not work well. There are MTA projects like East Side Access that generations have come and gone and that project still lives. We should all have the lifespan of the East Side Access project. Forensic audit must be done by the MTA so we know where the money is going. We have a capital plan review board that will do a real capital plan and not a political plan. And the MTA has to do a total reorganization plan by the end of this month, which is a fundamental reorganization of the institution. Not a convenient one, not one that doesn't rock any boats. They really need to reorganize that place, ground up, because it doesn't work.

 

One of the most important operations for the MTA is public safety. And that's always one of the most important priorities, right? Run the trains and run the trains safely, and make sure people are safe when they're there. That's public safety. We can argue the numbers. Numbers say subway crime is down. Everyone agrees more needs to be done, and that's any New Yorker you ask, as well as any of the officials who do the numbers. And that's something that we want to address directly and we're going to do that by adding an additional 500 officers to the MTA. From the 500 officers, 200 will be redeployed MTA officers, 200 will be additional NYPD officers who will be assigned to transit and 100 will be bridge and tunnel officers who will be transferred to New York City transit because at the bridges and tunnels we now need fewer personnel because there are no longer tolls, it's now moved to electronic tolls.

 

So the bridge and tunnel officers will be migrating to the MTA, that's a total of 200, 200, 100 - 500 officers. Three goals: Number one: improve public safety overall. Number two: address the assault on MTA workers, which is incomprehensible to me, but it is a true problem, it's getting worse. We've had 2,300 harassment incidents of MTA employees, 100 assaults - stabbings, punching, violence against MTA employees. MTA employees - these are public servants. These are people who are doing a very difficult job. You think it's easy? Go spend a day working in the subway tunnel and tell me that it's an easy job. Spend a day on a subway train driving, conducting it all day long and tell me it's easy. One hundred serious incidents, 1,200 incidents of harassment. We cannot allow it. They do not deserve it. They need more protection. The TWU, which is their union for many of the workers, has been complaining about it and they are right. Public employees must be protected at work and these attacks must stop.

 

And the third issue is the issue of fare evasion, which we have to attack. Fare evasion is a growing, monetarily significant problem. Fare evasion, three years ago, cost the system about $100 million. The $100 million dollars then went to $225 million. Now, it is estimated to be close to a quarter of a billion dollars, over $240 million. The MTA just did a fare increase and more and more people are evading the fare and getting on the trains without paying, or the buses without paying. That is not only a legal violation, it is unfair to everyone. You just increased the fare on riders, and people are then exploiting it by not paying the fare at all. That has to end. The fare evasion hotspots, the stations and bus routes that are the targeted locations for the highest incidents of fare evasions, correspond with the stations and bus routes where we have seen assaults on MTA workers. So, there are 100 hotspots, 100 targeted locations, 50 subway stations and 50 bus routes, which will be the primary deployment for these 500 officers. As well as helping public safety overall, they will be reducing fare evasion and protecting MTA workers from assault. So, it achieves many of our goals and I think will make a significant difference and address issues that have been growing for a prolonged period of time.

 

The New York City District Attorney has been extraordinarily helpful in this case. He understands the issue. He understands the problem. We are training personnel. We are getting more personnel in positions where they can deter fare evasion. We are also looking at design changes of the subway station access to the tracks. It can't be that a gate opens for a woman who has to use a stroller and once the gate is open it becomes a highway for everyone to walk through. So, that design research has to be done. The District Attorney has been working on this issue for years. He's actually agreed to work in partnership with the MTA and the New York City Police Department and he's going to contribute $40 million to the personnel training, the deterrence and video, we're going to experiment with video monitoring of the gates, as well as design alternatives for specifically the gates, but generally access to the tracks.

 

So this was a multi-pronged effort. I want to thank New York City for their commitment for 200 additional police officers. I think it is well justified. I think it was needed for a long period time. I think the MTA is right in redeploying MTA police and moving over the bridge and tunnel officers. I want to thank the New York City District Attorney for his overall cooperation, as well as for his contribution. I want to thank the TWU, the Transit Workers Union, Tony Utano and John Samuelsen for bringing this issue of assault on MTA personnel to the forefront. They've been talking about it for years and they were right. And I want to thank the MTA for their cooperation.

 

With that, that let me turn it over to Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance, then we'll hear from Pat Foye.

 

Cy Vance: Thank you, Governor.It's a pleasure to be here with you and well, the Governor and I spoke some months ago about working collectively to address some of the issues around fare evasion. And of course I was absolutely happy to do so and today's announcement culminates those discussions.

 

Our office is a prosecutor's office which deals with criminal offenses. And with regard to the issue of fare evasion, what few people understand is that if handled as a criminal prosecution that case comes into court, takes the time of court officers, judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors, court time, for a $2.75 theft, but nothing happens in court. And that's not a criticism of the judges, it's that there are no sanctions that are actually imposed and what I saw happening was the expenditure, as the head of an agency, the expenditure of a lot of money for very little criminal justice benefit.

 

It has been my belief over my ten years as District Attorney that we ought to keep our eyes on a couple of things. Number one: racial disparity in prosecutions, and with fare evasion prosecutions those that have been previously handled were overwhelmingly men and women of color. And secondly: doing something that works rather than continuing practices that don't. I have for these low level offenses been focused on prevention and I believe that sending people into court just like we've done isn't an answer to the situation. What the Governor and I, I think agree on is we should be focusing also serious efforts around deterrence and prevention, which is where our $40 million are designed to go.

 

We will be funding, as the Governor indicated, design-rebuild in the stations so that there will be less ability for someone to get into the subways without paying the fare. The gates that have been not closely monitored are going to be redesigned so that those gates don't act as a funnel for people inside and out of the subway. And there is going to be, as the Governor indicated, MTA personnel at many stations who are there to be a presence to deter people from going into the subway station. So, what I'm investing in is an effort to continue to reduce fare evasion, focusing on what I think will work, which is the area of deterrence.

 

In the last year, we've reduced our subway prosecutions and theft of service prosecutions by 96 percent. You heard the Governor say subway crime is down. I think that proves the point that prosecution and a more focused prosecution is actually, this is an opportune time to do that.

 

So Governor, I am looking forward to working with Pat. I am looking forward to working with you. I think this is an opportunity for our office to take funds. We have a very robust economic crime divisions in our office, and we have prosecuted foreign banks for literally billions of dollars for misdeeds that they have committed, tried to move money illegally through the banking system. The State of New York has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of those cases, as has been the City of New York, and I am proud that we can use $40 million, that are the proceeds of criminal activity not tax dollars, but criminal forfeiture, and take $40 million of those criminal proceeds and invest it in the New York City subway system, in partnership with the Governor and the MTA, to focus on prevention, not just prosecution. Because I believe that is a more appropriate way to address these issues.

 

If you are an individual and you drive through an E-Z toll, you are not going to get arrested, you are going to get a ticket. There are thousands of people who double park their cars in New York City every day. They don't get arrested, they get a ticket. If you are driving down the West Side highway at 65 miles an hour, you are not going to get arrested, you are going to get a ticket. So, it is unclear to me why, as a matter of equity, if you commit a $2.75 theft, you should be prosecuted and, at the same time for that, incur thousands of dollars in cost, perhaps in each case that is prosecuted, to no material benefit that occurs in court that I can see. So, it is a pleasure doing business with you Governor and it is not the last time, I'm sure.

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