Nov. 11, 2019 By Allie Griffin
Transit riders, street vendors and elected officials held a rally Monday criticizing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to add 500 law enforcement officers to the MTA police force.
The rally was held at the Broadway Junction subway station in Brooklyn, the location where a churro vendor was detained by several police officers on Friday night in an incident that was caught on video and went viral.
The protesters called on Cuomo to drop his plan to boost MTA enforcement in the city’s subways. Instead, they demanded the governor spend the funds to improve bus and subway service and create opportunities for vendors to work free from harassment.
They also criticized recent policing practices, arguing that cops are being too harsh on impoverished vendors. They pointed to Friday night’s incident involving Elsa, who was put in handcuffs for selling churros.
“The increased surveillance and police enforcement of the subway has turned it into a battleground for criminalizing poverty and demeaning low-income New Yorkers,” said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi. “We must invest our resources into repairing our broken transit system and growing the prosperity of our communities — not the policing of low-income riders and New Yorkers trying to make a living.”
Rally-goers demanded that existing subway enforcement focus on serious crime, as opposed to criminalizing low-income food vendors and fare evaders.
The churro vendor attended the rally. She was captured crying in the video posted to Twitter and was issued a summons that night for unlicensed vending.
The sale of food in the subway is banned unless authorized by the MTA. A NYPD spokesperson said she has been issued with 10 summonses in the past six months for unlicensed vending.
Cuomo’s proposal to ramp up MTA enforcement is meant to address fare evasion and “quality of life” crimes. Critics have said the measures unfairly target low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford the $2.75 subway/bus fares and those who work as street vendors for money. They argue that the MTA’s stretched budget would be better spent on service.
Many advocates pointed to the MTA’s own crime statistics that show public transit crimes have decreased. “Subway crime is very low and falling. More cops will bust the MTA’s budget and hurt vulnerable populations including low-income vendors like Elsa,” said Riders Alliance Community Organizer Danna Dennis.
“Governor Cuomo needs to focus on the MTA’s core services and spend riders’ money on subway and bus frequency not over-policing public transit.”
Tonight as I was leaving Broadway Junction, I saw three or four police officers (one of them was either a plainclothes cop or someone who worked at the station) gathered around a crying woman and her churro cart. Apparently, it's illegal to sell food inside train stations. 1/? pic.twitter.com/sgQVvSHUik
— Sofia B. Newman (@SofiaBNewman) November 9, 2019
There are more important issues riders have to deal with than legal or illegal immigrant vendors selling Churro and other products in the subways. The same is true for transit police. Riders have to deal with conductors who close the doors while crossing the platform attempting to transfer from a local to the express train. Try looking for the proper way to depose of your old newspaper as more trash cans are removed from more stations. Riders have to deal with aggressive panhandlers, eating as if one is at home or restaurant, those hogging two seats, yawning, coughing or sneezing without covering up, the release of flatulence and acrobatic performers swinging from subway car poles or homeless people riding back and forth with their meager possessions by their side taking up several seats. Women are periodically accosted by gropers while perverts engage in other unhealthy sexual activities.
Many have grown tired dealing with rats, mice and litter. NYC Transit should consider installing separate cans for recycling newspapers, plastic and glass along with regular garbage. Selling advertising on the side of cans could generate revenue to help cover the costs of more frequent off-peak and late-night collection and disposal. .
Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.
Instead of rallying & protesting the laws they should go apply for permits to sell in proper areas. Make better use of your time and energy.
Down with Churro Lady. Get her off the subway!
Thank you NYPD
Get Churro Lady’s taxes, let’s see how much she pays
Gardens Watcher I know you’re angry, but this is the wrong way to show it
I agree, just because our president brags about not paying taxes, and is the only president that’s too afraid to show his tax returns doesn’t mean we don’t need to crackdown on the $2.30 a churro-selling grandma might by hiding.
Here is the difference… He is doing it legally Let Churro Lady incorporate then she can write-off or dodge taxes legally. Until then she is breaking the law by selling in areas that are prohibited or without permit. She was issued 10 summonses within a 6 month period. Clearly a scofflaw without any regard for doing anything correctly.
Trump did it literally? WOW you’re gullible.
Trump said “not paying taxes makes you smart.” He didn’t say “write-off or dodge taxes legally.” She’s not paying taxes, she’s smart.
He cost the taxpayers millions. She cost them $4.
Trump didn’t say “metaphorically writing-off or dodging taxes legally makes me smart.”
He said “not paying taxes makes me smart,” just like churro lady.
You make a great point though: we should be REALLY concerned about her $20 in unreported taxes.
These illegal food vendors contribute to the rat problem in the subway.