After coming under fire from civil rights groups, New York City Transit has voluntarily agreed to provide translation services for those facing Transit Adjudication Bureau hearings. According to a letter from New York City Transit lawyer Michael Schnabel and obtained by The Times, those defending themselves from charges of fare-beating, littering or quality-of-life offenses will soon be able to receive the assistance of translators via a phone service. “We do support the view that those individuals who appear for hearings should be afforded every reasonable opportunity to effectively present their defenses,” Schnabel wrote.
In late September, the NYCLU had challenged the MTA’s lack of translators, and one reporter sent to a TAB hearing watched as a defendant struggled to find someone who could provide an accounting of the proceedings. Transit has maintained though that is not “legally obligated” to provide these but rather is doing so ensure that the accused are able “to fully participate in the process to the greatest extent reasonably possible.” Still, the NYCLU called this a clear victory. “They recognize it’s an indefensible situation, even if they don’t agree it’s an illegal situation,” lawyer Christopher Dunn said. “I don’t have any doubt they are going to implement this.” The MTA says the translation services will be in place by the end of the year.