A scary moment occurred today inside the MTA Board and Committee room in Manhattan when a protester, opposing a police buildup, charged at board members.
“This is illegitimate,” he shouted at the board members. “Nobody in this room really believes this is the right thing to do, no one.”
The board debated a proposed $17 billion budget for 2020, including $249 million to hire 500 officer for the MTA's police force.
Demonstrators who attended the meeting argued that more police militarize the subway and punish more people who can’t afford to pay the fare.
Still, the budget was adopted, although Mayor de Blasio's three board representatives voted no — a rare dissent.
"The history here of over enforcement and abuse of black and brown particularly young people is the sort of context we're working under," said David Jones, an MTA board member.
"It would be great to know what the deployment of resources is. What is our strategy here?” added Veronica Vanterpool, another MTA board member.
Gov. Cuomo, who appoints a majority of board members, pushed for the buildup. Three hundred of the hires represent new positions, expanding the force by 30 percent.
The rest will replace 200 openings through retirements and resignations.
"What it is is a significant increase on the number of highly trained, highly skilled officers," MTA Chairman Pat Foye said.
Critics say fears about subway crime are overblown.
The total number of serious subway crimes has fallen 3.7 percent this year to 6.7 felonies a day, about one for every 800,000 riders.
Robberies are up 11.5 percent, but the actual number is relatively small — about 50 more incidents than last year.
Still, some MTA board members say the buildup is needed.
"So, nearly two thousand assaults, two thousand robberies and nearly a thousand major sex crimes is not OK," said MTA Board Member Sarah Feinberg.
The MTA officers who patrol the subway are in addition to the 2,500 police officers assigned to the NYPD's Transit Bureau.
"The Transit Bureau does a fine job,” Foye said. “We've made a decision that … as the budget director pointed out, it's a third of a percent of the budget, that to provide a safe and secure environment, which is, we believe, our responsibility, that this is a prudent, reasonable thing to do."
The MTA chairman said the new MTA police officers will get the same training as NYPD officers, including anti-bias and de-escalation training. The MTA chairman, though, declined to say where and how these new MTA police officers will be deployed.