Meeting Minutes June 27, 2013




A meeting of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) was convened at 12:00 noon on June 27, 2013, in the 5th floor Board room at MTA Headquarters, 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.

The following members were present:

Andrew Albert                                   Sharon King Hoge

Stuart Goldstein                               Steve Mayo

Christopher Greif                             Edith Prentiss

Burton M. Strauss, Jr.

The following members were not present:

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas                 Tom Jost

William K. Guild                               Trudy L. Mason

Marisol Halpern                                Michael Sinansky

Toya Williford

In addition, the following persons were present:

William A. Henderson                     -PCAC Executive Director

Chief Joseph Fox                              -NYPD Transit Bureau

Dep. Insp Thomas Ponella            -NYPD Transit Bureau

Marsha Whitehead                          -Civic Association

Alan Flacks                                        -NY County Democratic Committee

Brigitta Payne                                   -Concerned Citizen

Yvonne Morrow                              -Concerned Citizen

Joseph Garber                                  -Concerned Citizen

Approval of Agenda and Minutes

The agenda for the June 27, 2013 meeting was approved, and the minutes of the May 23, 2013 meeting were approved.

Chair’s Report

A copy of the written Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Andrew Albert said that there will be a discussion of going back to eleven MTA Board meetings per year schedule at the regular July MTA Board meeting.  He said that there has been some dissatisfaction with the new schedule.

Edith Prentiss stated that she is in support of sending a letter expressing the Council’s support for returning to a schedule of eleven Board meetings per year.  The Council members agreed with Ms. Prentiss on this issue.

Mr. Albert said that the Riders Alliance is holding a press conference to demand more service between Brooklyn and Manhattan on the 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains while the Montague tube is closed for repairs.  During this diversion, NYC Transit will be running two R trains: one that comes close to replicating the old W route in Lower Manhattan and one running in Brooklyn from Court Street to Bay Ridge.

Chris Greif wanted to know if there will be free transfers to compensate for the closure of the Jay Street-Metrotech station on the weekends.  Andrew Albert replied that he has not yet seen a service plan.  Mr. Greif also noted that he has heard comments that R service would be cut in Brooklyn during the diversion.  Mr. Albert commented that he had heard the same comments and said that he will ask about transfers and service plan at the MTA Board meeting.

Yvonne Morrow commented that last week she waited 45 minutes at West Broadway/Chambers Streets for a shuttle that replaced the 1 train on weekends.

Ken Stewart responded to an item in the Chair’s report about the Council’s study of subway platform boarding humps, suggesting that when more humps are installed, the Council should put in a word for good visual contrast.

Edith Prentiss pointed out that when she tried to board the 6 train last week, the best place to board was at the last car due to the configuration of the station.

Alan Flacks inquired about the numerous diversions occurring in the subway system, even with the Fastrack program.  Mr. Albert responded that Fastrack was not intended to replace all weekend and overnight diversions and that a different type of work is being done during the Fastrack closures.

Mr. Greif commented that he is still upset that the Q train blocks the F line at 57th St. during Fastrack closures on the Broadway Line.  Mr. Albert responded that he does not know why they are doing this and that he will ask why NYC Transit has chosen this service plan.

Ms. Prentiss commented on recent subway diversions on the A line.  She said that in one such diversion there was no service between 168th and 207th Streets.  The announcements that were made told people to take the 1 train.  They also arranged a bus to run across Dyckman Street.  Unfortunately, NYC Transit also directed customers to take the M4 bus, although between midnight and 5 am, although there are no buses in service on this route.  Ms. Prentiss said that every time that she talks to Marcus Book at NYC Transit, he tells her to talk to the President.

Mr. Flacks raised an issue with trains using the Nassau Loop.  He said he had to make multiple transfers when taking J service.  Mr. Albert responded stating he has complained about this situation numerous times and that he is hoping to convince Carmen Bianco that the J train should run to Fulton Street or Broad Street at all times.  Mr. Flacks said that the walkway from the E train to Fulton Street is not being used.  Mr. Albert responded that he believes this element of the Fulton Center project will be put in service when One World Trade Center opens.

Ms. Prentiss asked whether the Fulton Center will be accessible.  Mr. Albert replied that it will be, but there will still be steps to the J and Z train.  Ms. Prentiss asked whether there is room for ramps.  Sharon King Hoge noted that ramps are good for riders with strollers or luggage as well as those persons using wheelchairs.

Board Report

Mr. Albert announced that at the July Board meeting we will hear MTA Management’s proposal for service restorations, as well as work plans for the R shutdown and return to service.

Mr. Greif pointed out that buses need to be restored to South Brooklyn.  He said that the B63 is very crowded and bus operators are having a hard time boarding wheelchairs.  Ms. Prentiss said that she can confirm his account.  She said that she had recently disembarked from an M5 bus to let another wheelchair on and had taken the subway instead.

Old Business

Bill Henderson said that the Council needed to complete elections of officers for the 2013-2014 year.  Mr. Henderson reminded the Council of the names that had been placed in nomination for the offices.

Mr. Greif pointed out that one candidate who had been nominated has an irregular attendance record at NYCTRC and PCAC meetings.  Mr. Albert commented that other members have worse attendance records and said that he did not feel that the member should be sandbagged without the opportunity to speak.

Mr. Greif said that he wanted to be considered for the Executive Committee and nominated himself.  Mr. Prentiss seconded the nomination.

Mr. Henderson distributed ballots containing the names of the candidates who were previously nominated and blank lines.  He explained that the members should check the box next to the person for whom they wished to vote for each office, or write in a member’s name and check the appropriate box if that person is not listed on the ballot.

The results of the election were as follows:  Chair – Andrew Albert; Vice Chair – Michael Sinansky; Executive Committee – Stuart Goldstein, Christopher Greif, and William Guild.

Introduction of Chief Joseph Fox, NYPD Transit Bureau, to discuss the policing of the New York City Transit Subway system

Chief Fox stated he has learned that the NYPD does not police in a vacuum and does not police without the cooperation of community groups and members.  He noted that Debra Greif and Joe Garber, who were in attendance, have been involved in helping the NYPD in their communities.

Chief Fox said that there has been considerable progress on reducing crime in the subway system.  There have been 250 robberies in 2013 compared with 364 to this point last year.  Comparable numbers for grand larcenies are 629 this year and 693 last year.  In addition, the rate of major crimes has declined from 7.5 per day last year to 6.4 per day this year.  This decrease is partly due to decoy operations, which have been expanded to all boroughs.  A total of 153 operations have been undertaken, resulting in 61 arrests.  In addition, attention to quality of life offenses helps police keep larger problems under control.

Some of these quality of life problems relate to juveniles, Chief Fox explained. The hours around school dismissal is a particular problem time.  He said that the NYPD has teams that work with schools and youths and that education and outreach is important with young people because some offenses they commit may be unintentional.  Despite this, schools are a serious source of problems, with 11 percent of all major felonies in the Transit Bureau’s jurisdiction being school related.  A crime is considered school related when either the perpetrator or the victim is a youth.  The Chief said that the Transit Bureau had made progress with school related crimes, with their total number down 18 percent this year, from 277 to 227, and that there has been a 33.5 percent decline in robberies.

Mr. Albert pointed out that on the Lexington and 59th Street station platform, there are regularly vendors selling food.  Chief Fox stated he will get back to Mr. Albert on this issue.  Inspector Ponella asked the hours that vendors are on the platform.  Ms. Prentiss stated that there is vending occurring at both rush hours and that the vendors sometimes leave to replenish their supplies during midday hours.  At other times, their supplies are brought to them.

Ms. Hoge mentioned that at the Lexington/59th Street and 42nd Street stations there are people set up to distribute religious information.  Inspector Ponella responded that this activity is constitutionally protected, but blocking traffic in the station is a violation of the rules.

Mr. Albert mentioned that there is another major issue on station platforms with the musicians that play there.  Inspector Ponella said that the Transit Bureau has operations in place to enforce rules that apply to musicians.  He said they are also active in enforcing rules against break dancing in subway cars.  In some of these cases, the Transit Bureau has tried to upgrade charges against break dancers from a violation to reckless endangerment.  He said that this is an ongoing discussion with prosecutors.

Burt Strauss asked the impact of issuing summonses on conditions in the subway.  Chief Fox responded that the impact depends on the individual.  Inspector Ponella also responded that the Transit Bureau puts recidivists in into a database, and when they issue summonses and people ignore them, the violators can be arrested.  He said that there are two kinds of summonses:  one for the Transit Adjudication Bureau (TAB) and one for the criminal courts.  The TAB summons is civil in nature, so violators wages can be garnished, but they cannot be arrested.

Mr. Albert asked whether people can be barred from subway system.  Inspector Ponella responded that they cannot be banned for quality of life offenses, but there can be parole stipulations that prevent people convicted of serious crimes from using the subways.

Chief Fox noted that a robbery is any theft with force involved and that grand larceny is a theft of an item over $1000 in value or of an item taken directly from a victim.

Mr. Stewart asked into what classification pick-pocketing falls.  Inspector Ponella responded that it is considered grand larceny.  Mr. Stewart requested that the Council obtain information on the number of summonses issued.  Inspector Ponella stated that he would get back to the Council on this.  Mr. Stewart also commented that the non-paid area of stations seems to be an enforcement vacuum.  People will sit on stairs and block access without anyone stopping them.  Inspector Ponella replied that the Transit Bureau enforces rules in this area as well.

Ms. Prentiss commented that one problem in the subways is people being buzzed through station service gates with large quantities of food for sale and large items such as refrigerators and Christmas trees.

Steve Mayo questioned how much of the Bureau’s resources are dedicated to terrorism as opposed to general policing.  Chief Fox stated that there are dedicated units that deal with terrorism and there are special operations that target terrorism.  He said that the Transit Bureau does bag screenings every day.

Mr. Greif remarked that things have improved since Chief Fox came to the Transit Bureau, but there are still issues outstanding.  There is graffiti around the Church Avenue station and many homeless people.  He also wanted to know whether the canine patrols are still being used.  Chief Fox responded that they are and that there are 35 canines in the program that still are sent out on patrol.  He said that the canine units also perform bomb detection.  The Chief said that if members are interested in visiting the canine facility, he can set something up.

Mr. Albert asked whether a majority of trash cans will have to be removed from stations.  Chief Fox responded that this is not his decision to make.

Mr. Albert asked Chief Fox if he was aware of the guns that are being stashed in free newspaper boxes.  Chief Fox said that he was aware of this practice and that it is common.

Mr. Flacks remarked that people are allowed to distribute religious tracts in the subway system.  He also asked the size of the Transit Bureau.  Chief Fox stated that there are approximately 2600 members of the bureau at normal strength, and that presently there are 2450 with 95 new officers due next year.  He stated that the Transit Bureau has not been reduced disproportionately in comparison with the NYPD as a whole.  The 95 new officers will be coming from the current Police Academy class.

Mr. Flacks asked if officers are issued cellphones.  Chief Fox responded that cellphones are sometimes issued, depending on one’s rank and mission. He also stated that when you see officers using phones, these are generally personal calls and that the Transit Bureau has an investigative unit and undue use of personal phones is one thing that they monitor.  He said that officers should use their phones when they are on break, as it is dangerous to be distracted by their use while on patrol.

Debra Greif offered congratulations for the progress that the Transit Bureau has made.  Ms. Greif recommended there should be precinct councils for the Transit Bureau and repeated the concerns raised earlier with regard to onboard break dancers.  Chief Fox commented they would be open to precinct councils for Transit, although there are some issues with this.

Mr. Albert requested to receive a list of borough commanders.  Chief Fox stated he will send the list to Mr. Albert.  Chief Fox gave the Council the Bureau’s email address format which is [email protected]

Mr. Albert asked the locations of the surveillance cameras that are monitored in real time.  Chief Fox stated that in ten major complexes cameras are monitored in real time, but in many places the images are recorded.  He noted that many wanted posters make use of turnstile camera images.

Mr. Prentiss asked if the screens in the station booths that show images from the elevators are available outside of the booths.  Inspector Ponella responded that these screens are generally monitors without recording capabilities, but that some elevator cameras record the images that they capture.  Chief Fox pointed out that once a month, the Transit Bureau conducts a transit-based seminar for officers and that in the next seminar he will speak about some of the issues that have been addressed in the NYCTRC meeting and specifically about the appearance that officers create when they use personal cellphones when on duty.

New Business

Ms. Prentiss pointed out that there are buses going out of service that will park and lay over at the bus stops. She noted that bus number 5981, operating as an M60 southbound bus, went out of service at 4:45 pm on June 26 at the southwest corner of 110th Street and Broadway.  Because of this, 3 M104 buses had to stop in the center lane.

Mr. Albert pointed out that the Community Board just approved a layover area at 106th Street for all M60 buses. Its implementation is in the works, but the M104 stop has already been moved.

Ms. Prentiss said that in addition south of 207th Street and Broadway the Bx20 is a problem. She said that the express buses, the M100, and the Bx20, are impossible to get on at this point.  The bus operators cannot see the people waiting on the curb.

Mr. Greif asked whether council wrote a letter regarding buses not curbing.  He also said that there is not enough signage for bus diversions.

Brigitta Payne noted that in her experience 75 percent of buses no longer fully curb.  She said that she has problems climbing up on the buses.

Ms. Prentiss asked Ms. Payne if the bus operators generally open the flap at the front of the bus to form a ramp for her.  Ms. Payne said that they do and are good about this.  Ms. Prentiss also said that bus operators often do not tell riders to fold their walkers.

Mr. Stewart suggested that the metal handhold straps on subway cars should be brought back.  Mr. Albert commented that metal straps are installed on the new articulated buses.

Mr. Flacks requested that the Council ask MTA Bus Operations to issue a bulletin instructing bus operators to allow passengers to remain on board when they lay over.

Ms. Prentiss requested that the Council address the situation in subway layovers where only one leaf of one door is left open for access to the train.  She said that sometimes trains go out without opening all doors and that in her experience this happens mostly on the L line.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

William Henderson

Executive Director