After much hemming and hawing about the prohibitive cost of subsidizing MetroCards for the poorest New Yorkers, it appears Mayor Bill de Blasio may soon reach an agreement with the City Council to fund the Fair Fares program after all.
Under the tentative terms of a deal reportedly struck between the mayor and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Thursday, $106 million from the city's budget would go toward providing half-price subway and bus rides to those living under the federal poverty line—$29,420 a year for a family of five (or under $12,140 for an individual).
Johnson, who's made the project a priority in his first City Council budget, had initially asked for $212 million, but was willing to accept the smaller figure to get the program off the ground, according to sources who spoke with Politico on Thursday. The reported amount appears to be the result of tense negotiations between Johnson and de Blasio:
Last week at Gracie Mansion, Mayor de Blasio proposed funding fair fares at $25 million -- far less than the $212 the council asked for.
It was around midnight, according to two people with knowledge of the encounter.
Speaker Johnson walked out of Gracie.
— J. David Goodman (@jdavidgoodman) June 7, 2018
While multiple reports say that an agreement has been reached, the mayor has not yet confirmed the deal. "We are moving in a good direction, but we don’t have anything to announce tonight," de Blasio said during his weekly NY1 appearance on Thursday night.
Reached for comment, Eric Phillips, a spokesperson for the mayor, told Gothamist, "No deal yet. More work to do." A final budget agreement between the mayor and City Council is expected to come next week, possibly as early as Monday.
The mayor declined to fund a $50 million pilot of the project last year, despite widespread support from advocates and in the City Council. De Blasio has previously called on the state to pay for the subsidy, while maintaining that turnstile jumping is not an "economic issue" or crime of poverty.
Yet one study from Baruch College professor Alexis Perrotta found that "low-income riders are more likely to evade the fare, exploit free transfers, and rely on fragmented systems of generosity and welfare than to forego goods." In the first ten months of last year, police arrested 15,600 turnstile jumpers and issued 63,462 summonses for the offense—with arrests disproportionately happening in poorer, African-American communities, according to analysis released the Community Service Society last year. The group estimates that the Fair Fares program would save roughly 800,000 New Yorkers $700 a year.
"I'm not asking for a free ride," Cynthia Kozikowski, a single mom with four kids living in the Bronx, told Gothamist earlier this year. "If Mayor de Blasio says he's all about bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, then he should do what's in his power in the budget to fund Fair Fares."