New Yorkers Fined for Slouching on Subway

I got robbed on the subway by the very people that were supposed to keep me safe from such unjust confiscation of my property: the NYPD. 

I got on the 1 Train at 28th St at 2:00, exhausted after spending 17 hours my school, FIT.

After transferring to the 3 Train on my way home to Harlem, with one other person on the 40+ seat car, I put my feet up to relax.  At 96th St, I was demanded to step off of the car.  I was confused but obeyed.

A police officer explained to me the dangers of robbery on the train and that sleeping on the train contributed to that.  He wrote me a $50 ticket.   

The following day at 2:15 am I was again greeted by an officer at 96th St who demanded myself and another male step out of the car.   

I had learned my lesson from the previous night not to put my feet up on the train and was awake and alert this time.  However, with “quotas to make”  loose body language and poor posture qualified as “Obstruction Seating.”  The car was nearly empty.


I asked to speak with his commanding officer.  He informed me that it was for the public’s protection. Days later, I observed officers at the 110th Central Park Station on the same train track at 1:30 am doing the same to other passengers.

When did slouchy posture encourage more crime or constitute as a criminal offense? WHY ARE POLICEMEN DOING THIS AT 3:00 AM?   

It is preposterous to demand money from well-behaved, productive citizens.  How does this make our city look to the outside world?  How does this policy affect how potential tourists and future residents of the city perceive our culture? 

Are YOU going to sit back and let the Big Apple to become like Washington, D.C. who fines people for eating or drinking while on the subway?  The Associated Press reported on November 16, 2000 that D.C. Metro Transit Police Chief Barry J. McDevitt “mounted an undercover crackdown on violators. A dozen plainclothes officers cited or arrested 35 people, 13 of them juveniles.” 

The policeman who issued me the second ticket Thursday night confided in me, when his commanding officer left of course, that he was embarrassed for having to do this and knows it’s ridiculous.  But he wasn’t the one calling the shots, just following orders…  He provided the number to his squad (District 3 at 145th and St. Nicholas) to file a complaint: (212) 281-5303.  The officers reported to Lieutenant Parente, who reported to Captain Pisano. 

Their mission as listed on http://www.mta.info is to “safeguard the lives and property of the people we serve while maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and integrity throughout the metropolitan region.”  Do you feel they are living up to that?   

If this has happened to you or anyone you know, you can make a complaint directly to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau’s 24-hour Complaint Center at (212) 741-8401, click on ‘Contact Us’ on www.mta.info, email Mayor Bloomberg by going to www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html or call your local media. 

New Yorkers don’t tolerate nonsense like this.  Please help get our story out and stop this. 

Thank you,

Josh Stevens

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18 Responses to “New Yorkers Fined for Slouching on Subway”

  1. Rachel Says:

    I am amazed and ashamed that POLICE OFFICERS are the ones causing such injustice. Quotas? Preposterous. How about catching some real criminals to fulfill those demands? The only time I’ve ever heard of poor posture being considered a crime is in Emily Post’s etiquette books. This story would be laughable if it weren’t true and if the scenario were isolated. But, the fact that it IS happening to numerous people, sometimes more than once, is appalling and should be stopped immediately.

  2. Josh Says:

    HUGE THANKS to Shabir Jaffer, owner of Impressions Printing & Graphics, for donating 300 free copies of flyers of this story.

    http://www.ipgny.com/

  3. Drew Says:

    This clearly doesn’t live up to their mission statement. If they truly wish to safeguard your property, then why are they fining you $50 for doing nothing?

    Furthermore, if they could spot your poor posture enough to fine you for it, couldn’t they clearly spot anybody trying to pick-pocket you? Kinda defeats the purpose…

  4. Jeff Says:

    That story is preposterous. Sounds like the NYPD didn’t meet their monthly earnings quota — or this recession has made everyone a little bit more jaded that need be.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

  5. Sean Says:

    I live in Chicago and consistently take public transportation. I’ve never heard of any of these penalities for taking more than one seat. Quite obviously, the police men had a different agenda than protect and serve. One issue we’ve had, is the city outsourced parking tickets. Now people are getting tickets left and right and the money is going to a privately held company, instead of the city.

  6. Terence Doherty Says:

    Common sense never seems to stray to far from its hiding place; whenever it appears, you just cannot grab it to keep it out in the open.

  7. Joe G Says:

    A sad reality, but I am glad at least Josh is spreading the word about this obvious money grab by the city of New York. Hopefully if we spread the word about this, the police will be so ashamed that they will refocus efforts to their best use, to protect against real crime and danger, and serve the community which counts on them.

  8. Deborah Stevens Says:

    Rules for riding NYC subway include:
    May not place one’s foot on the seat of a subway, bus, or platform bench; occupy more than one seat or place bags on an empty seat **when doing so would interfere with transit operations or the comfort of other customers. **

    **Please note the “when doing so” sentence. This, I believe, has some relevance, as when you were slouching it was 3 AM and certainly with only one other passenger, unless he were trying to sit right next to you, would not be interfering with transit ops or comfort of other customers. I’m also curious if they would ticket a “larger” person or do they make them buy two passes? Like on certain airlines? Seems to me that the common sense in making decisions is not one of the qualities that police deemed to the subway underworld have, i.e., mistaking a gun for a tazer!

  9. Deborah Stevens Says:

    CNN:
    Garcia said her son wore the same clothes for 11 days, slept in subway cars, used bathrooms in stations and spent most of his time over those days underground. He had $11 when he disappeared, she said, and he ate lollipops, potato chips and other food he bought in subway stations.

    Oh, also just read this on CNN, regarding missing child with Ausperger’s Syndrome, and was wondering if the police had been as diligent as they were with you, why did this kid spend 11 days sleeping on subway cars?

  10. John Minter Says:

    The City of New York’s public transit network is the largest in North America, so it’s easy to understand the need for the police and MTA workers to constantly monitor the system. While it is key to maintain the safety of commuters and the cleanliness of the system, certain rules seem to be in place solely as a way of funding the MTA.

    At the entrance of almost every subway or above ground rail station there are signs stating the codes of conduct. Featured are obvious rules such as no smoking on the platform, no riding between cars, no disorderly conduct, no holding doors and no boomboxes. THERE IS NO RULE STATING ANYTHING ABOUT IMPROPER BODY POSTURE OR COMPOSITION ON THE TRAINS

    If the MTA is going to be opportunistic by funding their system through these nonsensical and almost laughable rules the least they can do is post them in stations and on trains to make people aware. Until then, I suppose I’ll sit up straight with my shoulders back just to save a buck.

    John Minter
    Staten Island

  11. Jess Says:

    i can NOT believe about the ticket – i can’t imagine the chicago police writing a ticket for taking up 1+ seats at the hour of night. i mean there had to have been plenty of other seats for people to sit…not like it was a high demand time. Lame…a complete lame was to raise nyc revenues.

  12. Galina Says:

    This new ‘rule’ sounds alot like a crock of **** to me. I don’t believe that there is actually an existing law out there for human behaviour such as this.
    I’m still a little shook up after reading this.
    I lived in Kazakhstan, Germany and now in Canada and never have I come across such a ridiculous Act from people who are supposed to keep us safe and keep things in order that actually make sense!
    As you were saying, and I agree with a few comments up there; this happened at 3 a.m, both times. WHOM in the world would you have been an obsticle/danger to around that hour?!
    I have been on a subway back in Germany and am still riding the Bus from time to time. If those so called ‘rules’ were in tact here, then I’d be in debt.
    Looks like the Chief owes some money……

  13. Galina Says:

    I forgot to mention that this kind of Policy would be Considered as a violation of the Human Rights in many Cities around the Globe. Absurd.

  14. Esther Says:

    Josh,

    Very interesting. I find that although you didn’t truly get robbed, it was a very enticing opening paragraph. Although it is very unfortunate that this is what we are asking of our NYPD officers to do instead of protecting and serving one of the most populated areas in the country. I would even recommend you forwarding this to a local community/artistic newspaper as a feature story so others can learn of what is taking place and also get the word out. Though, I would suggest that you survey a few more people who has also been so inappropriately bothered by these so called “police officers,” or better know as maybe Subway cops, so that this could become one infamous well known feature story others could recognize and comment on more of a city-wide base. I would also recommend a little bit more information about how long this has been taking place, if you could find out.

    Either way, fantastic article and I hope to see more throughout your page and hopefully maybe even hear about it on local papers in Cincinnati!!

    Esther

  15. Leah Says:

    Ridiculous. Having spent a fair amount of time on the NYC Subway system myself, I can say that there are many issues that need addressed (i.e. vagrancy, cleanliness, security, etc.) This, however, is most certainly not where tax payer’s money should be going. Recently there have been several stories in the media about rapes, assaults and other serious crime in the subway. With all of these other real issues at hand, it seems a crime in itself to issue tickets to people who are simply too relaxed or tired on the subway. The subway is used by people of all walks of life but from my personal experience, the majority of people on the train very early in the morning or late at night were working class citizens whose jobs require them to perform physical labor for 12+ hours a day for probably little more than minimum wage. I’m sure they cannot afford their days’ earnings taken from them for their lack of posture on their long commute in or out of the city?

    Sounds to me like the city of bright lights is hurting financially just like everyone else. To help their situation, they’re looking in the pockets of their own people to make ends meet. I guess you should be watching your mailbox for a “Thank You” card from Michael Bloomberg for his early Christmas present, Josh.

  16. Jennifer Says:

    To be honest, I don’t even know what to think about this. seriously?

    It’s completely un-necessary; like the 4 speed traps I hit every time I head downtown to Denver.

    Just another way the long arm of the law can pick our pockets and get into our wallets!

    Josh, i feel like filing a complaint for you.

  17. Mert Says:

    That’s incredible… We don’t have subways where I live but I was on a public bus to go downtown yesterday; there were folks on there who seemed “vulnerable” to a robbery simply because they were mumbling at the floor like they didn’t know where/who they were (and they probably didn’t!). Bottom line: If I pay ANY amount of money to be on that bus (or subway) I should be able to slouch, sleep, or mumble at the floor as much as I want without being fined for it. I can understand rules for not placing one’s bag on a vacant seat (if you pay for one seat you can’t have 2), but governing someone’s posture is absurd.

  18. Yiannis Psaroudis Says:

    Saturday evening, after fleeing what could possibly be the worst date of ALL TIME, I boarded a downtown A/C/E train at Times Square. I boarded at the rear of the train but, the train not yet in motion–the doors hadn’t even closed, in fact–and wishing to put as much distance between myself and the bad date as possible, I advanced from my car to the next w/o through the exit doors at the end of the train. A police officer boarded the train, out of nowhere, and ordered me off. After explaining to me the grave peril of car climbing–again, the train in question was parked in the station w/ the doors still open–he proceeded to call me in for priors and warrants–I guess the one ticket for $50 was not enough against his quota and thought he may have nabbed a mass murderer, inadvertently.

    I was very offended by the whole situation. Having come from the theater, I was dressed both conservatively and somewhat formally. I was clearly posing no threat to others and any danger to myself was negligible. If they were really *that* concerned about the threat I posed, it seems questionable that they let me retain the bag that I was carrying, for the 15 mins I was detained.

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