When the cops know only some of the rules

By · Published in 2009

The cops who patrol the subways have been busy these days — or should I say these nights? They haven’t been busy stopping quality-of-life crimes that happen during the crowded rush hour commutes. Rather, they have been busy ticketing passengers late at night for not actually violating MTA regulations and subway rules.

The Post’s Tom Namako and Kirsten Fleming have highlighted the NYPD’s recent late-night ticketing blitz focusing on straphangers who take up more than one seat. It’s an outrageous tale, but it doesn’t fully connect the dots. The cops are giving out tickets for offenses that just aren’t offensive.

The two reporters tracked down two recent victims of the NYPD’s ticketing efforts. Josh Stevens, a student at FIT who was ticketed on back-to-back nights in November, says on the first night, he was stretched out on two seats and on the second, took up two seats when he crossed his legs. The NYPD officer who issued the summons said the increased enforcement was due to a quota.

“After the second time, I asked the officer, ‘Really, what’s going on? Why is this happening?’ ” Stevens said to Namako and Fleming. “And he told me, ‘Recently we’ve been told to write tickets instead of give warnings for this type of thing.’ He said they need to hit quotas.”

Andres Azamora was summonsed for having his legs splayed out in front of him — at 2:30 a.m. on an empty train. “There was no one else in the subway with me,” he said. “They just want to make money.”

Writes Namako and Felming, “MTA rules — which are enforced by the NYPD’s Transit division — say a passenger may not ‘occupy more than one seat’ or ‘place his or her foot on a seat.'” That’s not all these rules say. In fact, while this story makes the NYPD look petty, the real problem though is how the NYPD is blatantly flouting the MTA’s own Rules and Regulations.

Section 1050.7 of the MTA’s Rules of Conduct concern disorderly conduct, and section j involves passengers and the seats to which they are entitled. A passenger shall not “(1) occupy more than one seat on a station, platform or conveyance when to do so would interfere or tend to interfere with the operation of the Authority’s transit system or the comfort of other passengers;” and may not “(2) place his or her foot on a seat on a station, platform or conveyance.”

As the rule makes clear, a foot on a seat is an automatic offense, but passengers may occupy more than one seat if they are not interfering with the comfort of other passengers and the operations of the subway. If Alzamora and Stevens are telling the truth, the cops are ignoring the rules. They’re writing tickets for actions that aren’t violations.

So far this year, police have issued 784 summonses, and that number far surpasses 2008’s 760. Even though the NYPD’s Transit division isn’t run by the MTA, the authority will look guilty by association and will have to deal with another blow to its beleaguered public image. It’s time to reign in this irresponsible behavior. Cops should know the rules, and anyone who receives a ticket for stretching on an empty train at 2:30 a.m. should fight that ticket as hard as they can.

Why are NYPD officers targeting late-night victimless offenses when mid-day harassment and groping incidents go ignored if not to meet a quota? Plenty of people interfere with passenger comfort and space by spreading out when the trains are full. Late-night enforcement though catches people who aren’t violating the MTA’s regulations. If only the police were this vigilant during the day, the ride would be nicer for all.

Categories : MTA Absurdity

28 Responses to “When the cops know only some of the rules”

  1. E. Aron says:

    “…when to do so would interfere or tend to interfere with the operation of the Authority’s transit system or the comfort of other passengers.” Vague.

    • It is vague. It’s legalese, but do you think, from a common-sense point of view, that someone taking up extra space on a train car with three people at 2:30 in the morning is interfering with the operation of the system or anyone else’s comfort?

      • E. Aron says:

        Of course not. It’s so vague, to continue with legalese, it could be void for vagueness. Tending to interfere with the operation of the transit system could mean any number of things to any number of officers.

  2. Jay Walker says:

    So what exactly should we do when we do get a ticket for that?

  3. Josh says:

    I guess you’ve got to applaud the honesty shown by the officer who said he had to hit a quota.

  4. Brendan Ferry says:

    I was also give the exact same excuse by an officer when recently issued a summons for walking through Tompkins Square Park at 12:30AM. “the community has complained of muggings in the park and we need to show we’re doing something so that’s why we have to give you a ticket.”

    My friend and I (we both live in ABC City) were walking to his apartment on St Marks Pl from Ave C and 6th St. As we approached 7th and B we noticed a tall bright lighted tree with lots of Xmas lights. We decided to cut through the park to see the tree. We entered the OPEN gates at 7th and B and walked towards the exit at St Marks and A.

    As we approached the exit gate at St Marks we noticed the gate was shut with an officer standing at it – we were puzzled because we never noticed the gates shut. As we approached the officer and he nicely greeted us saying “good evening gentlemen, i need to see your IDs”. 45 minutes later, in the 10 degrees, the two officers issued us a ticket for being in the park after closing hours. We told him we didn’t know the park was closed and if the gates had been closed we never would have entered. His excuse “we need to show the community we’re doing something” – meanwhile while we stood waiting about 10 other people were walking through the park just as we did, none were issued a ticket. And I don’t want to forget the MULTIPLE homeless people sleeping in the park that we passed.

    I’m glad to see my taxes are paying two officers (and the 4 others who stopped by during the 45 minutes it took to write the tickets) to issue tickets to two innocent citizens while a thousand dangerous crimes are probably taking place all over ABC City.

    Commissioner Ray Kelly – get a f’ing clue and stop wasting our valuable police resources.

  5. Mike Nitabach says:

    So far this year, police have issued 784 summonses, and that number far surpasses 2008’s 760.

    This is the total number of summonses issued by transit police, or just the total number of Section 1050.7 summonses? The former sounds completely impossible.

  6. John Powers says:

    It’s a bunch of crap.
    … but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
    The police in the NYC metro area are out of control.

    This past spring, I got cited $50 for smoking on the subway platform. At Queensboro Plaza, it’s open air. Can we still smoke outside? It was 4am, and nobody else was on the platform. I was reading Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, and the cops walked right over to me and started writing. Really?! Have you nothing better to do than harrass people that are waiting half an hour for a train in the middle of the night?! I sat and read my book while they wrote me the ticket. I’ve got the money, and $50 for a cigarette ain’t bad… but go stop some real criminals, and leave the commuters alone. If the N/W was running, I wouldn’t have had to take the 7 from Times Square to Queensboro and wait 45 minutes for an N anyhow! (frequent trains = less cigarettes!)

    • Anon says:

      did you at least finish your cigarette?

    • Phil says:

      Well that’s a violation of an NYC smoking ban, so it’s justified.

    • Adirondacker12800 says:

      It’s not much of bother in the middle of the night. If they let people smoke at 4 am they have to let people smoke at 4pm. You would never do this but when somebody decides to flick their butt onto the tracks and the tracks catch fire that’s a bit more inconveient than some smoke on a empty platform.

      … move to Chicago, you can smoke on the El platforms…

      • Eric says:

        Actually, the El platforms all have posted signs (which look like they’re from 1945) posted saying smoking is prohibited. The rationale has something to do with a lit cigarette landing on a tar covered railroad tie or some such foolishness….

    • Andrew says:

      Smoking is prohibited on all NYCT property, inside or outside. I don’t know if smokers realize it, but nonsmokers find second-hand smoke quite irritating, even outdoors. So I’m sorry you had to get cited, but I’m glad the police are enforcing this.

      Now, I wonder why you had to wait 45 minutes for the N – trains normally run every 20 minutes at night (although sometimes it feels like 45!). And I’m surprised that, with a wait like that, nobody else was on the platform with you.

      • rhywun says:

        I find lots of things that people do around me irritating, but virtually none of them are as ruthlessly punished as smoking.

        • Chris says:

          Do those people directly threaten your health by doing those things?

          • rhywun says:

            “Second-hand” smoke’s danger is vastly overrated, except in cases of actually living in a house with a smoker. Occasional exposure outdoors is harmless–look it up. The real impetus of the recent wave of laws is the “annoyance” that Andrew cited above.

  7. F Bardamu says:

    Also all these cops NEVER take the subway to work
    They get free parking at and around the various precinct houses.
    Did you ever notice how many spaces are assigned to the police?
    For the record I do not own a car.

  8. Ginger says:

    21NYCRR 1050.7

    Disorderly conduct.

    No person on or in any facility or conveyance shall:

    j.(1) occupy more than one seat on a station, platform or conveyance when to do so would interfere or tend to interfere with the operation of the Authority’s transit system or the comfort of other passengers; (2) place his or her foot on a seat on a station, platform or conveyance; (3) lie on the floor, platform, stairway, landing or conveyance; or (4) block free movement on a station, stairway, platform or conveyance…

    I would like to know how the MTA will be able to establish that to take up more than one seat when the train is virtually empty at 2:30 am would interfere or tend to interrere with the operation of the transit system or the comfort of other passengers.

    • TAB says:

      That can be backed up with Section 1050.6 D2 for ignoring posted signs. That happens all the time in Central Park when people ignore the sign posted saying to keep out between 1:00 AM and 6:00 AM.

      The NY Post has some of the posters and signs up for you to view.

  9. KPL says:

    Where does the ticket money go? Does it go to the city or does it go to the MTA?

    • animemiz says:

      I believe the ticket money goes to the city, and not MTA.

      But yeah.. really annoyed by this bit of news that I always see, as well.

  10. Eric says:

    Better use of NYPD in the subway during the overnight hours might be stopping the public urinating/crapping folks at 7th Ave on the B/D/E or 34th-Herald Square on the B/D/F & N/R lines — as well as any other of the hotspots we commonly avoid due to constant scent of human waste.

  11. JACK says:

    Yeah I got one of these stupid taking up 2 seats fine on a Sunday Morning on an empty train back in 05. I ended up fighting the ticket and lost. I appealed it too and lost that too. I was outraged by these stupid ticket. I wasted 3 days of work for this crap. I made up the money and my 3 days off from work by farebeating for about 11 months almost every day. 50 fine plus my cost for missing work for 3 days even though I got vacation time for it. 250*3=750 + the fine of 50. Fare then was 76 for a 30 day metrocard. So guess who loses out in the end. Its the MTA. I would have not farebeat otherwise if they didn’t harass me. Now we are even.


  1. […] more late-night straphangers face tickets for not really violating the rules, the MTA will now have to open up the challenges to these summonses to the public. The New York […]

  2. […] G train at 2 a.m. would not. I know revenue is tight, but the egregious issuing of summonses, as I said in December, should be put to a halt. Categories : Asides, MTA […]

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