With the passage of the city budget weeks away and Fair Fares at the center of negotiations, transit, anti-poverty and civil rights organizers fanned out from a Central Harlem subway station Monday and engaged riders to call the mayor to ask him to endorse the inclusion of half-price MetroCards in City Budget.
With the New York City Council having embraced Fair Fares for this year’s city budget and Mayor Bill de Blasio not yet won over, supporters of the initiative gathered at the A/B/C/D Harlem subway station at West 125th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue on Monday afternoon to announce a city-wide, week-long effort to recruit hundreds of riders to call the mayor’s office and ask him to adopt Fair Fares.
Community Service Society and Riders Alliance grassroots Fair Fares leaders, representing an unprecedented coalition of transit, anti-poverty, civil rights and racial justice organizations, set up a phone call station, provided riders with pay as you go phones and handed out bilingual postcards in English and Spanish with all the instructions for how to call the mayor. The organizations will distribute thousands of cards at subway and bus stops city-wide this week and will post on social media to encourage riders to flood the Mayor’s office with pleas for Fair Fares.
Manuel Aguilar, a Riders Alliance grassroots leader from Queens, said, “Since I was recently hurt on my previous job, I’m currently unemployed and I spend the majority of my week either going to physical therapy or searching for a job. I often have to choose between getting a healthy meal or a MetroCard. Sometime I have to beg for a swipe, which I do not like to do. That’s why I am joining my fellow New Yorkers and calling the mayor today to demand Fair Fares. Nobody should have to struggle to access this great city.”
“New Yorkers living at or below the poverty line should not have to wait any longer for relief from the often prohibitive cost of public transit in our city,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society. “Our Fair Fares proposal could save working poor New Yorkers hundreds of dollars a year and give them the freedom to access more of what New York City can offer them and their families. We have overwhelming support for this plan, and now simply need Mayor de Blasio to pick up the phone and listen to his constituents. Fair Fares can’t wait.”
At an estimated cost of $212 million out of a $90 billion budget, nearly 800,000 working-age New Yorkers living below the poverty line would be eligible for Fair Fares, with participants saving up to $726 annually. With many nearly a million New Yorkers living in poverty, large numbers of subway and bus riders are likely to qualify or know family, friends and neighbors who will qualify to pay a half-fare under the proposal.
With barely a month left before the city adopts its next annual budget, Fair Fares has emerged as the key anti-poverty initiative now at issue between the mayor and City Council. The Council fully embraced the idea in its response last month to the mayor’s preliminary budget. Mayor de Blasio, who recently added $300 million to the city’s investment in its new ferry system, has said that he too supports Fair Fares in principle but however wants them paid for by a new state tax which Albany leaders have opposed.
With an unprecedented coalition of 50 elected officials and 71 advocacy organizations in support, and now a wave of New Yorkers calling his office directly, Fair Fares leaders are committed to changing the mayor’s mind and winning Fair Fares in the city budget this June.
To learn more about Riders Alliance, please visit their website here.