MAY 6 — After hearing from both Local 100 and MTA attorneys this morning at 80 Centre Street, New York State Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla let a temporary restraining order stopping the MTA from closing token booths remain in effect. She set a court date for argument for 2:15 this coming Monday, May 10, when the parties will appear again before her to argue the case.
Standing before TV cameras in front of the court building after the ruling, TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen called Scarpulla’s decision “a victory for the folks who want to ride the subways to and from work in relative safety.” Noting that the MTA had first voted to close the booths in December of 2008, and referring to recent terror attacks, he said that “the world has changed a lot in 18 months.” The Union’s attorney, Arthur Schwartz, added that Local 100 believes that a new round of notifications to community board and public hearings is necessary before booth closings can go forward. He intends to argue the point before Judge Scarpulla at the next court date.
Judge Scarpulla’s decision continues the temporary restraining order, first signed last night by Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger, which bars booth closings on the grounds that the MTA did not follow proper community notification and hearing procedures. The decision has temporarily saved the jobs of 475 Station Agents who, instead of going forward with “exit sessions” at the Transit Learning Center were told to report to work as usual. They will continue to staff their regular booth assignments.
In discussion before the bench, Mr. Schwartz urged the court to consider the requirement for public hearings written into the New York State Public Authorities Law. Attorney Florence Dean, representing New York City Transit, argued that not moving forward with the layoffs and closings would be expensive for the MTA. Rejecting that point, Judge Scarpulla said that “Due process always costs money. I don’t see what the issue is. It seems to me that the simple solution is to schedule hearings.” Also present for the conference were the MTA’s General Counsel, James Henly, and New York City Transit Counsel Martin Schnabel.
In later comments to reporters, Mr. Schwartz noted that a previous case brought by Local 100 had established that a booth closing was equivalent to the partial closing of a station and thus required public comment and the notification of community boards in the affected neighborhoods.
Local 100 is going forward with a scheduled demonstration today in front of the Duane Street home of MTA Chairman Jay Walder, who has decided not to use $100 million in federal stimulus funding dollars to save jobs and reverse service cuts. Many of the Station Agents who are in job jeopardy will rally to make the point to Mr. Walder’s neighbors (assuming he is not at home) that their safety and security is imperiled by the decision to remove the public’s “eyes and ears” in the transit system.