Millions of New York City commuters saw the price of their weekly and monthly subway cards increase again on Monday. The cost of a one-week card increased from $31 to $32 while a monthly pass went up from $116.50 to $121. The base fare of $2.75 for a single ride remained the same. While the increase may not register with some, for low-income New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet in a rapidly gentrifying city, the fare hikes are another blow.
To express their opposition to the MTA fare hike, a broad coalition of activists under the umbrella of Swipe It Forward offered New Yorkers of color free subway swipes at seven stations across the boroughs. The coalition included Why Accountability, Black Lives Matter NYC, BYP 100, Coalition to End Broken Windows, Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU), Answer Coalition, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee NYC, NYC Against Trump and the NYC Black Justice Alliance.
Many of the groups have fought for years for police accountability and connect the increase in subway fares to the use of “broken windows” policing which places a heavy emphasis on punishing minor “quality- of-life” offenses committed by people of color such as turnstile hopping. According to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, the NYPD made 30,000 arrests fro fare evasion in 2016. Of the arrestees, 92% were people of color.
‘For The Community’
Jewel Cadet, New York City chapter co-chair of the City Black Youth Project 100, spent her afternoon at the Nostrand Avenue subway station in Bedford Stuyvesant, swiping those in need into the subway.
“We are doing this action today to directly combat broken windows policing. We are doing this today for the community,” Cadet told her fellow Brooklynites. “We are doing this to make it very clear that not being able to pay the $2.75 is not a reason to not be able to take the train, it’s also not a reason to go to jail, be arrested or ticketed.”
Although Cadet had broken no law—countless legal sources as well as the MTA itself confirms that swiping another person into the subway is completely legal as long as no money is exchanged—two officers approached her.
“The white NYPD officer specifically decided to target me because I am a Black woman. This is deeper than sexism, it is about misogyny which was shown by his deliberate attempt to silence a Black woman,” Cadet told The Indypendent. “Black women are constantly told we’re being ‘too loud’ or ‘too aggressive.’”
The video recorded by a fellow activist shows the cops threatening her with a summons, but then retracting the threat it seems, once they realize she has broken no laws.
(Video: used with permission of Jewel Cadet/Facebook)
Although giving away Metro card swipes is completely legal, #swipeitforward activists at other subway stations reported police harassment as well.
In addition to Nostrand Ave, Swipe It Forward groups setup at 161 Street/Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, 125th and Lexington in Harlem, 116th Street and Broadway in West Harlem and 74th and Broadway in Jackson Heights. Activists confirm actions at two additional subway stations.
MTA, NYPD and ICE
At 7 p.m., Swipe It Forward activists arrived at the 74th Street and Broadway subway station in Jackson Heights, a highly diverse Latino and South Asian neighborhood in Queens, to conclude their day of action.
Activists handed out flyers and explained their goal to passersby, alternating between English and Spanish.
Peyton, an organizer with the Police Reform Organizing Project, noted the urgent yet precarious position of Jackson Heights.
“Jackson Heights has a high immigrant population and is very much a community of color. We want to try to best protect them any way we can, so [we’re] swiping them forward so they don’t get arrested for jumping the turnstiles,” said Peyton, who declined to give her last name.
Immigrant communities today are on high alert as the Trump administration seeks to step up deportations of undocumented immigrants. Sweeps by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are targeting heavily immigrant communities across the country including Jackson Heights which historically has been subjected to excessive policing.
“Getting arrested twice for jumping the turnstiles” Peyton continued, “it actually affects their immigration status.” Which, in fact, can lead to deportation.
Many subway riders were receptive to the offers of free rides, appearing very grateful and surprised at the simple generosity. The group estimated they swiped about 100 people into the subway at that particular station.
Steven, a native of Queens, stopped to watch for a few minutes. “Me being a New Yorker” Steven told The Indypendent, “I been there. So if someone asks for a swipe, I always swipe. I appreciate what [the group] is doing and, swipe it forward!"