The distraction game
by Emily Gallagher
Nov 12, 2019 | 586 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When I first visited the city, I was enchanted by the subway and the idea that I could get anywhere I wanted for $2.

I have a strong memory of coming home at night after a long day of work and a fun night out, the gush of wind blowing the sweat off my neck in the hot August night when the E train finally pulled into the station.

There was a lot of relief in the subway for me at that time, knowing I could get quite far quite quickly for a price that I could afford.

I was made to feel safe by the common characters I would see in the subway. The same musicians at the same hours, the commuters who shared my schedule, and the vendors who could take the edge off a long day when I was desperate for a snack when dinner was many hours away past late-night meetings and events.

When you're a regular user of the subway, you come to recognize and know your neighbors, whether they are monthly MetroCard holders, folks selling homemade snacks, or neighbors who need a warm or dry place to spend the night.

When you know these folks, they don't bother you. We all come to understand that we are in the subway because we need to be.

The infrastructure is playing an essential part in each of our lives, and like all important things in the city it means different things to different people.

Only people who never take the subway could see turnstile hoppers, food vendors, or other subway citizens as threatening. In fact, I believe this entire crackdown has absolutely nothing to do with those being punished and everything to do with distraction.

The subway's problems have been authored by the state and its many years of poor management. In a 2017 article in the New York Times, Jim Dwyer wrote, "because governments borrow money at low interest rates by selling tax-free bonds, debt can be a prudent way to pay for assets like machines and structures with long life spans. These are known as capital equipment.

“But few other major transit systems in the world heap as much of their capital debt on riders as New York does,” he continued. “Instead, they draw on other sources, like taxes or congestion pricing. New York’s approach shields governors, mayors and state legislators from such unpleasant tasks by shifting the burden to future riders, well clear of the next election cycle.

“By law, in a competition for budget money, debt service always comes in first. No such law protects riders. To repay the loans, money has been siphoned from service and maintenance," he concluded.

Dwyer details that in the early 2000s, then-governor George Pataki and other elected officials mortgaged subway cars that didn't last very long and are currently being used as artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean.

The article condemns the subway crisis, even three years ago, as a blame-shifting experiment in state and city government, and so it remains today.

We do not need more police in the subway. The only thing that is making the subway unsafe is the wild ways that its managers have attempted to pay for it over the years, which makes them now unable to pay for the things we need.

To distract from this, we're arresting our most vulnerable people, who no one really minded being in the subway to begin with.

I will always offer a swipe to a man who wants to get out of the rain or the cold. I will always smile and greet a churro or mango vendor when I see them, because often they are, in fact, saving me.

New York State and our mayor are taking a page from the Trump administration: by blaming the poor and the immigrants for our problems, we're not getting the opportunity to discover what is truly faulty.

Convenient too, as the local papers and news media have been slashed beyond belief, there are few journalists like Jim Dwyer left to critique, research and find out what's really happening.

We're stuck with our own reporting on Twitter, our own fears, and our own feelings of powerlessness.
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