BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Last Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo publicly called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board to slap repeat subway sex offenders with a lifetime ban from the system.
But shortly afterward, a leading transit-advocacy group said all New Yorkers have the right to ride the rails — even incorrigible perverts.
Two days earlier, Transit police had busted Santiago Gonzalez, 71, a Level 3 sex offender, for allegedly trying to pickpocket a man on the 4/5/6 line, the New York Post reported.
According to the newspaper, Gonzalez had 27 prior arrests, 24 of those in the subway system, and had just finished a 97-day stint behind bars in June. His most recent subway sex-abuse bust was in March, when he targeted a woman, the tabloid said.
Cuomo cited the Post’s article — which noted that Edward Delatorre, the Transit police chief, backs the ban — in his press release.
“I applaud the N.Y.P.D.’s successful investigation and arrest of one of the worst serial sex offenders on the New York City subway, and support their efforts to ban this individual from the system,” Cuomo said.
“This is a commonsense issue,” he continued, “which is why I am calling on the M.T.A. board to end the repeated victimization of riders on our subways and buses and enact a lifetime ban on any individual who engages in such abhorrent behavior.
“The definition of insanity would be to allow this conduct to continue unabated and somehow expect our transit system to improve,” the governor added. “The N.Y.P.D. is right to seek this ban, and now it is the M.T.A.’s responsibility to ensure a safe and efficient system by taking action against these repeat offenders once and for all.”
Albany can pass legislature to banish individuals from the subway system, but the M.T.A. can also implement its own ban, according to the Post. In June, the state Senate voted to approve such a ban, but not the Assembly.
However, two hours after Cuomo issued his press release, Riders Alliance, a transit-advocacy group, issued its own, objecting to the idea of preventing anyone — including repeat subway sex offenders — from using the system. The alliance called the governor’s new kick to kick out underground perverts a “distraction” from mass transit’s larger problems.
“Government shouldn’t ban New Yorkers from public spaces like our subways and buses,” said Danny Pearlstein, the group’s policy and communications director. “Blaming riders for problems with transit distracts from Governor Cuomo’s responsibility to deliver an M.T.A. capital plan that puts reliable and accessible subways first.
“New York’s subway faces so many serious challenges,” Pearlstein added. “The governor and his transit agency need to stay completely focused on improving subway and bus service to provide New Yorkers with safe, fast, affordable and efficient access to our city.”
Asked by this paper to clarify why chronically recidivist subway sexual offenders should not be booted from the system, Pearlstein said, “We oppose banning people from public space.”
Riders Alliance, along with Transportation Alternatives, is also a strong supporter of the de Blasio administration’s 14th St. no-cars busway plan, which is being contested by a lawsuit filed by Village and Chelsea residents.