There are certain things we do in this city that we know might not be technically legal, but are tacitly acknowledged as acceptable, so we do them anyway. These things all come with varying degrees of risk (you probably won’t get a ticket for jaywalking, but drinking a beer in the park is a little more dicey), however we take these risks because the benefits outweigh the potential—minimal—costs. As of late, though, due in no small part to new police commissioner Bill Bratton’s implementation of the Broken Windows Policy (in which the perpetrators of petty infractions are targeted as a means to supposedly diminish more serious crimes), these types of violations are being heavily ticketed and, as the New York Daily News reports today, lines are long outside the city’s “dingy summons court” as people wait to pay fines for things like “walking through the park after dark, bicycling on the sidewalk, drinking on the street and even spitting.”
As controversial as the Broken Windows Policy has become, targeting as it does mostly people of color and of low income and indirectly leading to the murder of Eric Garner, lately the city police have been targeting commuters who aren’t even doing anything illegal—and the tickets are being upheld in court! Via Patchstats (and a tip off from Second Avenue Sagas), we found out that people have been ticketed for staying on the 6 train as it turns around after it reaches its final stop, Brooklyn Bridge station. Although many subway lines request that all passengers leave once a terminus is reached, the 6 train allows riders to stay aboard, if only to catch a glimpse of one of the hidden treasures of the New York subway system, the abandoned City Hall station, replete with Gustavino arches and antique chandeliers. In fact, it’s been legal for passengers to stay aboard since 2007, when the MTA even stopped announcing Brooklyn Bridge as being the “last stop,” and instead just informed riders that the train would be turning around and heading back uptown.
And yet, two people were ticketed earlier this month for doing this totally legal thing, and then went to Transit Adjudication Bureau (TAB) court to fight the $50 fines, only to have the illegal tickets upheld! This is some major bullshit! But it is also not all that surprising in de Blasio and Bratton’s New York, a place where selling loose cigarettes leads to relentless harassment and eventual death. It is also pretty clear that there won’t be any slowing down of this type of police behavior, not when it’s proving to be so profitable for a city that no longer has Bloomberg’s personal coffers to garnish the existing budget. (Which is not to say that it’s better to have a billionaire mayor. On the contrary! It’s that kind of dependency on and assumption of the continuation of extreme wealth and privilege that’s fucked this city so hard in so many ways. Anyway.)
This type of police behavior and indiscriminate ticketing is all the more ironic considering de Blasio made a campaign promise to legalize one of the most innocuous and common infractions: stoop drinking. But now that he’s mayor and not just running for mayor, he doesn’t seem to care that much about what he once thought was important to stand up for, namely lower income and minority residents. Instead, de Blasio and Bratton are counting on the fact that it’s a pain in the ass to fight these types of minor tickets, and maybe not even financially worth it, considering that the ticketed might need to take time off work in order to get the fine dismissed. Not to mention the fact that sometimes courts rule in favor of the illegal ticket. But fight them we must, because we can not accept these types of tickets as par for the course; we can not take this lying down, lest we get walked all over.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen