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Push to decriminalize subway turnstile jumping gets new backers

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Brooklyn lawmakers will propose legislation to decriminalize fare beating in NYC

Turnstile jumping will no longer carry with it the threat of a Class A misdemeanor, if two Brooklyn lawmakers have their way.

On the heels of Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance Jr.’s decision to no longer prosecute subway fare beaters, State Sen. Jesse Hamilton and Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright have announced plans to introduce legislation to make turnstile jumping punishable with an existing fine of $100 rather than a strike on the ol’ permanent record, DNAinfo reports.

“We are decriminalizing it. We are not making it something that is without penalty,” Wright said on Tuesday. “We are now saying they would be subject to the existing fines that are on the books”

As it is, the penalties for turnstile jumping disproportionately affect non-white New Yorkers. In 2015, 29,198 arrests were made for fare beating—and 92 percent of those arrested were non-white commuters. DNAinfo notes that 18,000 of those arrested for fare evasion in 2016 were 16 or 17 years old.

“Prosecuting for turnstile jumping is counter to this city's efforts to be a sanctuary,” Anthony Posada of Legal Aid NYC, a law firm for low-income families and individuals, said on Tuesday.

In its latest budget proposal, City Council called for $50 million in funding for a pilot program that would offer discount MTA fares for low-income New Yorkers. The program, named “Fair Fares,” holds the potential to alleviate some of the financial burden for some 800,000 eligible city residents, including 72,000 City University of New York (CUNY) students. Transit advocates along with lawmakers have largely supported the program

But with most things subway-related, Mayor de Blasio says the city is neither able to, or responsible for, carrying the cost of reduced subway fare for New Yorkers.

Hamilton and Wright will introduce the bill, S.4841-B, in January.