Gov backs serial subway sex-abuser ban, but transit group says, Let ’em ride

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.

Governor Cuomo says repeat subway sex offenders should be banned from the system for life. (Courtesy Governor Cuomo’s Office)

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.

6 Responses to Gov backs serial subway sex-abuser ban, but transit group says, Let ’em ride

  1. Why stop at a dedicated tax on the sale of legalized pot to buyers as a funding source to pay for the MTA capital program along with road and bridge improvements? Why not think out of the box? Use the free market and let the MTA NYC Transit subway, Long Island & Metro North Rail Roads, use off peak, late night, overnight and weekend excess capacity to provide consumers with other services they desire. Create the “X” line, which could run separate trains. These would provide cars for folks to light up either cigarettes, cigars or marijuana. You could also have other cars for drinking, gambling or adult entertainment. This could raise the MTA millions. Next, create the “H” line using older subway cars about to be retired. They could be converted to provide overnight accommodations for homeless people, including portable showers and medical support facilities. This would afford regular transit riders more space and safer environment. Mayor Bill de Blasio needs all the help he can get in dealing with the growing NYC homeless population. Many of them refuse to go to shelters which they view as unsafe. They prefer riding the subways overnight or staying out on the street. This could save NYC millions.

    (Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office).

    • Larry Penner For Mayor!

      PS – I say let the non recidivist ride but the rest should be deported to to LA. DeBlasio has already been sotto voce paying to move some of our homeless out of town, let’s make it a policy.

      Calif won’t mind since they embrace mayhem and street defecation as evidence of political party allegiance, whereas in NYC we seem to favor corruption, nepotism and freeing all criminals from jails as the essence of being a “New Yorker.

      Seriously, my solution for the MTA debacle is to require all local politicians, MTA Board members, upper managers, and ranking transit union officials to ride public transit daily or forgo their salaries. Also we should be stripping city and NYC-based NY State politicians and all non emergency city and state govt employees of ALL GOVT PROVIDED vehicles.

      These two proposals will immediately cut costs, reduce traffic and increase parking spaces, and will certainly induce our public servants to quickly come up with fixes and solutions to our mass transit problems.

  2. Is this serious offender receiving any services to help his obvious dysfunction or will he just be thrown aside which might lead to further maybe worse offenses?

  3. All convicted felons should be banned from public transit and public housing. It should also be explicitly allowed for private landlords to check for criminal records and be allow to not rent to convicted felons.

    As far as the transit system goes, put facial recognition cameras on the turnstiles, and let them block anyone they recognize as a convicted felon (and notify the NYPD of any who try to enter.)

  4. If this were to happen in Florida, it would be all about punishment. He clearly needs help. Yes, we do not want him out where he can harm citizens, but he definitely needs mental help, mentoring, monitoring, plus a lot of other help.

    But as far as other people go who are on the registry as sex offenders, a recent Department of Justice report (May 2019) on the recidivism rate for released sex offenders found that after following inmates who had committed rape or a sexual assault, after a 9-year period, 7.7% of them reoffended. That means that 92.3% did not reoffend. According to an article in the “Queens Daily Eagle”, Cuomo stated that he wants all sex offenders banned from the transit system. With no transportation, many of these people in the 92.3% who do not reoffend will be unable to keep a job. There is plenty of research out there to show that without a job (which greatly increases the chances of becoming homeless), a released inmate is far more likely to commit any type of crime. They are more likely to reintegrate back into society successfully if they have family support, a job, and a place to live.

  5. And let’s ban Lincoln Anderson of the Villager from attending public meetings and public spaces because often he writes about, exposes, and reports upon the foibles of feeble, foolish, and corrupt elected public and political party officials.

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