The quest for city-funded half-price MetroCards, known as Fair Fares, isnt quite shaping up to be a fair fight.
Mayor de Blasio who has resisted including the measure in his budget was massively outnumbered by an army of city elected officials, district attorneys and labor leaders who called on him to pony up $212 million for it in his executive budget.
The show-of-force rally came a day after Council Speaker Corey Johnson included the program, which could help 800,000 New Yorkers at or below the poverty line, in the Councils response to the mayors budget proposal.
This City Council stands united and we call upon the mayor to engage with us in good faith negotiations going forward, to see this as a meaningful, transformative, legacy-making item for this administration and for this council, and were going to stand strong through our negotiations, Johnson said.
Council pushing for half-price MetroCards for poor New Yorkers
The mayor who has funded plenty of major new initiatives without identifying a new revenue source for them has insisted the discounted swipes should be paid for not by the city but by a state-enacted tax on the wealthiest New York City residents, which would also fund the subway system. The so-called millionaires tax proposal is considered dead-on-arrival in Albany.
The army of progressive pols were an indication of the pressure the mayor will be under on the issue. Its been a thorny subject for him, particularly because of the mayors hard-line on turnstile jumping which many advocates argue happens because people cant afford a swipe, despite de Blasios insistence, without offering evidence, that many arrested for it are flush with cash.
Among those calling for the funding were the citys other two citywide elected officials, Public Advocate Letitia James, Controller Scott Stringer, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. all seen as likely candidates for mayor in 2021.
James praised the Councils version of the budget as one that reflects our values.
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It reflects the fact that New York City should really be the fairest city of the land, and unfortunately, the mayor of the City of New York has rejected and has opposed again addressing this major issue, James said.
Stringer called on de Blasio to begin negotiations on the program.
The challenge for so many New Yorkers is the ability to pay and with this proposal going forward, we are now going to be able to lift people up in this city, so that they can get to school, and get to the doctor and get home maybe a little quicker, Stringer said.
Diaz Jr. said the focus in recent weeks has been on the hard infrastructure of the MTA but called for attention to the citys social infrastructure.
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Were here today because if you really want to make this a fairer city, Mr. Mayor, pass the budget with Fair Fares, Diaz Jr. said.
Also present were three district attorneys Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, Bronx DA Darcel Clark and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, whose decision not to prosecute most fare-beaters is what led to de Blasios comments about the crime.
Stuart Appelbaum, head of the union representing retail workers, noted that when he began organizing car wash workers, he asked why theyd chosen a job with long hours and hazardous conditions.
We often hear their concerns over transportation costs they cannot afford to look for work too far from home because they cant afford the subway or bus fare, he said.