KENSINGTON — An auto mechanic who collected Nazi memorabilia and was once busted for firing a pistol at a picture of his mother-in-law has become an unlikely champion of the right for straphangers to flee pee in a subway car.
Michael Kneitel, 52, is going to court to beat a summons an NYPD officer issued him in February for moving between subway cars while escaping a passenger urinating inside a Coney Island-bound F train.
The grease monkey, who in 2001 was arrested for having a cache of weapons after police spotted him taking target practice in a Brooklyn park, filed a petition in Brooklyn Supreme Court on April 13, asking a judge to throw out a recent decision by the MTA’s Transit Adjudication Bureau that upheld the ticket's $75 fine.
Kneitel, who lives in Kensington, told DNAinfo New York that he’s fighting the fine out of principle.
“I’m going to stand up to the MTA and say, ‘You know what? You messed up,’” he said. “I’m going to take this ruling and stick it so far up their a-hole until it reaches the back of their teeth.”
Kneitel had just boarded the F train when he spotted — or rather smelled — what is truly the bane of any subway rider: a fellow passenger answering nature’s call.
Kneitel said the train was still in the station, but he didn’t think he had time to exit onto the subway platform because he heard an automated announcement instructing passengers to stand clear of the closing doors. Instead he opted to slip through the subway car’s end door to move to another car.
The MTA forbids passengers from using the end doors unless an emergency arises or they’re directed by a subway conductor or police officers.
Kneitel said, in his eyes, a man relieving himself constituted an emergency. Not only did it smell bad, but, Kneitel said, the pee was hazardous to his health.
Kneitel had to have surgery a few years ago after he suffered a bacterial infection in his heart. His physician has since told him to steer clear of bacteria-carrying fluid or particles, he said.
“I didn’t want to be subjected to his urine even for one stop because you can be infected in a heartbeat,” Kneitel said.
When Kneitel made it to the other car, a police officer was there and ordered him off the train. Kneitel said he tried to explain to the officer about the pee-soaked car, but he just got a shrug.
“I said, ‘Why are you giving me a hard time about moving between cars while the train is stopped when there is a homeless person urinating?’” Kneitel recalled.
The officer issued Kneitel the ticket. He was given a hearing date at the MTA’s Transit Adjudication Bureau, where he could fight the violation in front of a hearing officer.
At his Feb. 24 hearing, Kneitel argued that the urinating passenger, whom he described as homeless, qualified as an emergency. Kneitel, who had a brief stint as a bus line manager for the MTA in 2011, also pointed out that the agency treats urine as a biohazardous material, requiring its employees to wear protective gear if they have to scrub it from a subway car or bus.
But the hearing officer, Rosanne Harvey, wasn’t swayed. She didn’t think the pee was an emergency and upheld the violation's $75 fine.
“[Kneitel’s] desire to safeguard his health by separating himself from a passenger using the train car as a urine receptacle may explain his conduct, but it neither excuses it nor constitutes the type of emergency requiring immediate evacuation through the end doors to avoid imminent danger,” she wrote in her decision.
Kneitel said he tried to appeal the decision through the bureau but was denied because he didn’t pay the fine.
He said he hopes the Brooklyn Supreme Court judge will see the pee his way. He has a court date on May 8.
The mechanic was convicted in 2002 for storing an arsenal of weapons in a Brooklyn warehouse. He was busted a year earlier, when an off-duty cop jogging in Gateway National Recreation Area spotted him shooting at a picture of his mother-in-law.
When investigators searched his home and warehouse, they found rifles and pistols and Nazi memorabilia, including disturbing pictures of his 6-month-old daughter covered in an SS guard uniform with her fingers on a gun, according to reports.
Kneitel served three years in prison and five years of probation, according to state records. He told DNAinfo New York he is still fighting to overturn the conviction, claiming the NYPD “framed” him.
“The NYPD falsified evidence. The NYPD made it out to be a bigger thing than it was,” he said, noting the guns he had were mostly collectibles and kept in secure places.
Kneitel, who has since divorced and remarried, was raised Orthodox Jewish. He said he collected the Nazi memorabilia because it was valuable — not because he sympathized with the ideology.
“The reason why I had all the guns and the Nazi memorabilia was to fund my daughter’s college fund when she got older,” he said.
He said his conviction has made finding employment tough, noting that he has been passed over for many city jobs, including work as a mechanic for the NYPD.
Kneitel did manage to get a job as a bus line supervisor for MTA in 2011, but only worked there for about seven months. Currently, he works for a Ford dealership.
The MTA declined to comment on Kneitel's case.