Flashback To 2003
In the final hours of the 2003 legislative session, the legislature in Albany passed a bipartisan bill which dumped the future of subway token booths in Governor George Pataki's lap- if he wants it.
If Pataki vetoes the measure, the Assembly and state senate could override it, but if the veto is the final step in the bill's progress, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has already announced 62 booths will be closed beginning next month.
The governor's only comment thus far on the unexpected bill came on Monday when he said he hadn't seen the bill yet and would consider it eventually.
The bill passed by the legislature last Friday places a three-year moratorium on the MTA closing order. It also authorizes the governor to appoint a seven-member advisory board to study subway safety and report back to the governor within the three-year period.
The MTA had decided to close the booths as a money-saving measure, but the move was strongly opposed by subway riders and advocacy groups on the grounds that the clerks manning the booths provide added underground security to deal with possible terrorist threats. But MTA officials maintained subway cops could handle all security problems.
However, sponsors of the bill cited security considerations as their reason for submitting the measure.
The senate sponsors, Senators Martin Golden (R- Brooklyn) and Guy Velella (R- Bronx) pointed out in media reports that the subways present terrorists with an easy target and the more subway personnel underground the better for the huge crowds that pass through the system every day.
Transit rider advocates also got behind the bill, urging the governor to sign it.
The MTA decided to close 177 booths as part of a cost-cutting measure when it raised fares in March. But the announced service cutback sparked a huge outcry. The agency then reduced the number of token booths to be closed to 62, 45 in July and the rest by the end of the year.