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City Axes 'Fair Fares' Subsidized MetroCards From Budget

By Gwynne Hogan | June 8, 2017 4:06pm
 The $50 million dollar pilot project was axed from the budget.
The $50 million dollar pilot project was axed from the budget.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

MANHATTAN — The city budget failed to include a $50 million proposal to subsidize MetroCards for low income New Yorkers Tuesday, the City Council confirmed, because the mayor said the governor should fund it.

While the City Council had requested $50 million to launch a pilot program that would start funding the "Fair Fares" program to offer half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers living on around $24,000 a year for a family of four, Mayor Bill de Blasio wouldn't budge on his insistence that Gov. Andrew Cuomo ought to foot the bill.

"The proposal is a noble one but the mayor has been very clear: the MTA is the responsibility of the state and they should consider funding the program,” said de Blasio spokesman Freddi Goldstein, who added that city already chips in $60 million to fund rides for elderly, youth and disabled subway riders.

Advocates, however, blamed the mayor, accusing him of turning a blind eye to low income New Yorkers he'd campaigned to protect.

"This is about connecting low income New York City residents to everything New York City has to offer to pull them out of poverty," said Rebecca Bailin, a spokeswoman for the Riders Alliance. She vowed to keep after de Blasio about it.

"We're ready to just ramp up the fight," she said. "It's really up to the mayor at this point."

"One hand is not talking to the other," said David Jones, an MTA board member who was appointed by de Blasio, and has been campaigning for Fair Fares as well as more information about police arrests of turnstile jumpers.

"We were disappointed as much with the council as with the Mayor," Jones said. "The Mayor does not really grasp that this is an issue that [is] directly what he had run on; crime that deals with income inequality."

The "Fair Fares" program garnered the support of 40 of 51 council members, Bailin said.

A spokeswoman for the city council didn't return a request for comment.

In January alone, police arrested 2,000 people for jumping turnstiles and issued 5,502 summonses, and  Jones has been pushing the NYPD for more solid data on turnstile jumping arrests for months, though his requests have been met with resistance.

Preliminary information, however, suggests that 90 percent of those arrested for turnstile jumping are black and Latino and are residents of the city's poorest neighborhoods, hearkening back to racially driven and controversial policing strategies like stop and frisk, Jones said.

In an effort to get better information from police about turnstile jumping, Queens Councilman Rory Lancman announced Wednesday new legislation that would require police to publish quarterly reports on the number fare beating arrests they make and how many summonses they issue, broken down by precinct, subway station race and gender.