Lhota: ‘I do not support’ a subway food banBy
Senator Bill Perkins does not, like most New Yorkers, like rats all that much. He doesn’t want to be reminded that millions of them coexist with the human residents in this fine city of ours, and he particularly doesn’t want to see them at his subway stop, on his subway platform, in the tracks or perhaps even in the train. I can’t say I blame him too much.
The truth about rats in New York City — and it’s one we don’t like to admit — is that they are drawn to human waste. They feast on our garbage, and as long as we supply them with garbage, they’ll eat and be merry. The subways provide them with ample garbage. Harried New Yorkers are always eating, and although most straphangers make use of the trash receptacles, as the MTA has dubbed them, even if just a few bad eggs throw their food scraps onto the tracks or station floors, the rats will find a way to them.
And so Bill Perkins wants to head off that behavior by cutting off the source of food. There shall be, he has proposed, no eating in the subway. His bill has cleared the State Senate’s Transportation Committee, although 9 of the 16 yea votes came with reservations, and now it sits with the Finance Committee. Perhaps it will pass, and the challenge will fall to the enforcers. Perhaps it shall die a death in Albany.
Yesterday, while on a trip to speak out in support of transit funding, MTA CEO and Chairman offered up his views on the proposed food ban, and it is not on his transit wishlist. “I do not support the bill,” Lhota said to The Times. “It severely hurts and impacts minority communities. I don’t want to deny the kid the only time that day he’s going to get food.”
The new Chairman says that too many people, from workers to students, need their commute time to grab a quick bite and that the ban would be a burden. Lhota, however, is familiar with Perkins’ work as the two have tried to combat New York’s rat problem for years. The MTA head though didn’t offer up praise for the Senator. “The idea that we worked together in the past goes far beyond the reality. As a legislator, he does nothing but talk and talk and talk, and he does nothing,” he said.
Perkins countered with a different take. He claimed Lhota once offered up support for the food ban and believes his bill to be the key to controlling rats underground. That is a bold claim indeed. “If that’s his position, I’m sorry to hear that,” Perkins said of Lhota. “I think there is a great need for us to control eating in the subways to get control of the rodent infestation. We’re still trying to convince him.”
There is, of course, another way to look at this issue. As Cap’n Transit noted to me via Twitter last night, perhaps this issue is being improperly framed. The problem isn’t that people can eat underground; rather, the problem is that no one is there to clean up the garbage. Trash bags sit in stations for days, and rats find their ways to neglected sources of food. The Cap’n believes rehiring cleaners could make stations tidier while providing jobs for the unemployed. If Albany were to focus on such a solution, it could create a better win-win-win.
Meanwhile, I’m torn. Eating on the subway is not the most sanitary of things to do, and folks who chow down on complex meals are often disrespectful toward their fellow commuters and themselves. That people think the subway floor is an appropriate place for discarded chicken bones or unwanted french fries simply makes it worse. And so, dear readers, I shall leave the question up to you.
Update (2:30 p.m.): Facing criticism from other state officials for his comments, Lhota, noted during his time in the Guiliania Administration for his temper, issued a formal apology to Perkins this afternoon. “I would like to apologize to Senator Perkins for my comments in The Times today,” he said. “Bill is an excellent legislator with great constituent services, and I share his commitment to addressing the problem of rat proliferation in New York City. Though we agree on many rat related issues, we disagree on banning food on the subways. I have a great deal of respect for Senator Perkins.”