By Angel Torres
Special to the Eagle
As we commute through New York City late at night, when trains are practically empty and traveling at a glacial pace, the only thing on New Yorkers’ minds is getting home to rest and relax before we start the next day.
The last thing anyone is thinking about is the possibility of getting pulled off the train and ticketed for bad etiquette.
But this is exactly the situation I found myself in, when, at 1:20 a.m. on April 25, two NYPD officers asked me to step off a downtown A train at the 125 Street station.
The two cops who approached me asked me to get off the train with very unassuming tones, as if they merely wanted to do a random bag search that would be over in 30 seconds.
In reality, they intended to hit me a $50 fine for having my feet up on the seat directly in front of me. I’m now fully aware this is illegal. I wasn’t before and I can’t bring myself to understand why two cops would go out of their way to ticket me in the middle of the night on a practically empty train car.
If the circumstances had been different, and I was obstructing the comfort or space of other riders during rush hour, I would have understood the validity of this ticket.
However, on a daily basis, there is an innumerable amount of people who stretch out on train seats, put their feet up and make messes that seem impossible to clean. These examples seem far more punishable in contrast to a tired rider simply looking for a little extra comfort on a long ride home.
The worst part about my unforeseen ticket was that I was asked to step off the train. I had already spent 20 minutes waiting for the A train I was on only to get pulled over and delayed for another 45 minutes before I was able to catch my next train.
After a long day of work and class projects that began at 5:45 a.m. the previous day, the delay seemed unnecessarily cruel, and the relentless officers didn’t seem interested in my explanation.
For those who would argue that my feet on the seat were sullying the subway system, here’s some more information: New York City’s subway system is one of the dirtiest out there. According to a TravelMath study conducted in 2016, there are 2 million colony-forming units — a measure of bacteria levels — per square inch on surfaces in our transit system.
Time Out New York put this data in context, by illustrating that touching a handrail on the subway system is equivalent to shaking hands with 10,000 people. With this in mind, I doubt a foot on a chair is really contributing a life-changing amount of uncleanliness.
But, fine, feet on a seat are unclean. But why ticket me? Why not just tell me to put my feet down?
Doesn’t the NYPD have better things to occupy its time than giving fines to tired subway riders in the middle of the night?
There were 866 reported sex crimes on the MTA system in 2018, according to CBS New York, which cites NYPD data. This year alone, there have been 165 reported sex crimes through March 17 — a 10 percent increase as compared to the same time period last year, reports the New York Times.
The officers who so graciously handed me a ticket told me, “This is for your own safety,” saying I could get robbed or worse if I dozed off. I find this logic backward and akin to going after the victim instead of the perpetrator. A better use of time and effort would be the NYPD staying vigilant for the people they claim could commit crimes against me.
In any case, there is a stark difference between sex crimes, robberies and trying to find comfort on an empty train at 1:20 a.m.
So why is the NYPD not focusing its energy on greater crimes here? Is it quotas? Police officer boredom late at night? A joy that comes from wielding the power of a badge? Whatever it is, I’m sure a warning would have sufficed in place of the $50 fine that I’ll now have to either pay or contest.
Angel Torres is a senior at CUNY Baruch College. He is the copy chief at The Ticker, the college’s student newspaper.