May 21, 2000
Testimony of William Melnick, representing NYC Americans for Democratic Action, before the Transportation Committee, Community Board #1

My name is William Melnick and I reside at 25-40 31st Avenue, Long Island City, 11106, in this community. I place before you an issue of great importance that you should be concerned with, that will affect many members of this community.
I am here as a representative of the New York City chapter of Americans for Democratic Action where I have served as a member of the Board of Directors for a number of years.

The New York City Transit Authority is proposing a plan to cut staff, reduce hours of operation, and possibly close 122 token booths in the New York City subway system. Token booths and clerks would be replaced by vending machines and turnstiles, thereby endangering subway riders' safety as well as greatly limiting access to the stations.

We oppose this proposal for the following reasons:

1) A subway entrance that is not staffed will be far more dangerous. An official human presence deters criminal activity and makes riders feel safer. In addition, riders know where to go to seek help if they sense that they are in danger. A turnstile is unable to call 911.

2) Riders pushing strollers, disabled riders (especially ones using crutches or carrying a large package) may not fit into a High Entry/Exit turnstile.

3) Riders who need directions or who are having problems with Metrocards will have no one to help them.

4) Many token booths are in lower income neighborhoods where residents have no alternative to public transportation.
Last August, a State Supreme Court Justice ruled that the MTA can't close any token booths until public hearings are held. The MTA appealed this decision to a higher court. Last March, the NY State Appellate Court ruled in our favor unanimously that public hearings must be held before any booth closings by the MTA.

We recommend that CB1 do the following:

1) Hold an individual hearing on this issue, with the public invited to participate, which would eventually empower the community.

2) Plan to join, with other community boards, the Borough President, and any other interested groups, in holding a borough-wide community board hearing.

3) All of you should mobilize to attend and influence the upcoming MTA public hearing and the eventual vote.
In addition to this report, I have a written resolution drafted by "Keep the Token Booths Open Coalition" which we would like to endorse. Please contact me to discuss how we may work together to keep our subways safe, accessible, and comfortable for its riders.

Thank you for your attention to this issue. I look forward to working with you on it.

Sincerely,
William Melnick

P.S. We understand that token booth elimination will save money in the short run. However, we believe the real cost will be fewer, more disgruntled riders, more accidents, and more crime. Certainly, unwelcome results. We urge #1 to oppose this shortsighted proposal.
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