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Open Letter on Police Presence in the MTA


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In January 2020, a group of artists and cultural workers led by LP Create Change alumni The Black School came together to co-write an open letter to the MTA and NYC government officials. Our intent is to express our collective disapproval of recent unjust policing in our subway system, which disproportionately targets New Yorkers of color and low-income New Yorkers. We are calling for the removal of this increased NYPD presence in the MTA, and for an end to the criminalization of poverty. We stand with—and are a part of—the communities being targeted by this policing and ask that the NYPD and MTA protect and respect the safety, vibrancy, and diversity of our city. Read the letter below.

Graphics designed by Joseph Cuillier; subway map image via Wikimedia Commons.

Sign the letter here

ATTN:

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Mayor Bill de Blasio
Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea  
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez

District Attorney Darcel Denise Clark
District Attorney Melinda Katz
District Attorney Michael McMahon
MTA Chairman Patrick Foye

To the Aforementioned:

As we enter the New Year, we, the collective body of artists and cultural workers of The Laundromat Project’s alumni and extended communities, have co-written this letter from a place of deep commitment to the people of New York City. The Laundromat Project (The LP) is an internationally recognized organization that advances artists and neighbors as change agents in their own communities. Simply put, we are greatly disappointed and disturbed by the recent surge in police presence and aggression in the subway system as a solution to the MTA’s financial challenges. 

As residents of New York, artists, and members of The LP community, we are intimately aware of and concerned for the well-being of its most vulnerable citizens, including teenagers of color, vendors of color, and low-income New Yorkers, many of whom are being disproportionately targeted by the unnecessary uptick in policing of the MTA system. We ourselves are from these segments of the population, and see them in our families and classrooms. Our proximity to vulnerable community groups alerts us to the need for substantive change to the social infrastructure of our city—rather than strategies such as fare evasion policing which do more to punish than support those who are under the most strain. Following former Mayor Bloomberg’s recent public apology about the enforcement of stop and frisk policies under his administration, it is hard to believe that yet again, policing within public spaces is directly targeting perceived people of color and immigrants. Further, we highlight and admonish the absurdity of the recent vote to devote $250,000,000 in public taxpayer dollars into the hiring of new NYPD officers to provide fare evasion enforcement for the MTA, which collects billions of dollars in revenue annually and defines itself as “public benefit institution.” We find the cost of maintaining these officers particularly disturbing given that the MTA reports less than $250,000,000 annual revenue loss through fare evasion. 

Creating financial barriers through such ongoing policies as fare increases for hardworking, low-income New Yorkers who contribute to the economic, cultural, and social fabric of our city is not for the public’s benefit. Tasing and tackling young people for minor infractions such as fare evasion is not for the public’s benefit. Brandishing guns in transit stations in order to collect a missing $2.75 is not for the public’s benefit. These policies are extreme by any estimation and especially inappropriate when considered in context with the chronically underperforming public transit system that is less and less able to provide reliable service to New Yorkers. 

The increased police presence in the MTA points to a corresponding rise in surveillance of low-income people of color throughout the city. We are particularly disappointed to see a rise in semi-militaristic policing put in place by our state and local Democratic leaders, many of whom ran on platforms aimed at increasing social equity. We are aware of the rise in conservative, often xenophobic policies throughout the world, but will not stand for a corresponding policy shift in our city. We point to the recent uprising in Chile: a direct response to their transit system’s untenable fare increase and a threat to citizens’ daily lives that resulted in a serious challenge to their government. The parallels are clear, and position New York City government’s current policies—both with regards to increased police presence, and to impending fare increases that bear no corresponding increase in wages—on the wrong side of just and equitable governance that could ensure, at the very least, a utilitarian functionality in our city. 

We, the co-signers of this letter, stand with the communities being targeted by these policies. As artists, activists, and cultural workers, our responsibility is to imagine and help manifest new worlds. We accept this task gladly and thus, call for the removal of the increased NYPD presence in the MTA. We call for expanded policies that provide reliable, affordable access to public transportation for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. We call for strategies that decriminalize, rather than target, poverty. We call for the MTA and NYPD to invest in additional  anti-racist and implicit bias training by working with community-attuned organizations such as the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond and/or the Center for Racial Justice in Education. We call for New York City to stand up in support of its incredible diversity across all measures (race, religion, gender, sexuality, age, class, disability, and immigration status, etc.) to maintain a transit system that is safe and accessible for all. 

Sign the letter here

Sincerely,

Joseph CuillierFounder and Director, The Black School
Shani PetersFounder and Director, The Black School
Latasha Diggs Writer, Teacher, Harlem Resident
Bianca MońaCultural Worker
Sydnie L. MosleyArtistic Director, Sydnie L. Mosley Dances
Petrushka Bazin LarsenHarlem resident and small business owner
Emma ColónThe Laundromat Project
Rasu JilaniCultural Network Curator, and Social Sculptor, Lambent Foundation
Kemi IlesanmiThe Laundromat Project
Ayesha WilliamsThe Laundromat Project
Salome AsegaArtist
Kearra Amaya GopeeArtist
Priscilla StadlerLaundromat Project Create Change Fellow Alumnus
Tijay Mohammed Multidisciplinary artist
Dionis F OrtizVisual Artist
Arielle C. Knight Filmmaker
Ingrid Romero
Ayodamola Tanimowo OkunseindeAssistant Professor of Interaction and Media Design, Parsons the New School
Chloë BassArtist
Hatuey Ramos-FermínArtist
Jennifer JonesArtist and Teacher
Xenia Diente
Allison Freedman WeisbergNonprofit ED
Catherine Mbali Green-Johnson Arts East New York Inc.
Katy RubinArtist
Katherine ToukhyArtist and Arts Educator
Tomie AraiThe Chinatown Art Brigade
Joyce LeeAnnFounder of Archival Alchemy®, The LP Alumna
Betty YuLP Alumni and Artist
Tendaji Ya’UkuuCommunity Organizer
Akiva Steinmetz-Silber
Christoper LopezResident
Solana ChehtmanCultural Producer
Caron AtlasCultural Organizer
Micaela MarteganiMore Art
Seyi AdebanjoFilmmaker & Educator, Tengade Productions
Ryan GilliamArtist & Organizer
Roderick SchrockEyebeam
Jasmine MurrellArtist
Alethea Pace
Yvette RamirezThe University of Michigan
Bayete Ross SmithInterdisciplinary Artist, Journalist and Professor
Ari
KEEBSThe Black Artists Liberation Movement
HaifaArtist, Curator
Salvador MuñozArtist
Noelle GhoussainiTheatre Artist
Suzanne Broughel Artist
Olaronke AkinmowoArtist
Lindsay C. HarrisArtist, Curator, Youth Worker in Support of LGBTQ+ Youth of Color
Dalaeja ForemanNYC Native, Organizer & Cultural Worker
Lizania Denisse CruzArtist
Moncho AlvaradoThe Laundromat Project
Bridget Bartolini
Tiara EbonyThe LP Staff
Maia C PalileoArtist
Alejandra NasserCommunity Organizer
Stephanie AlvaradoArtist
Sarita Covington
Sally SzwedArtistic Director, Eyebeam
Lee
Pelenakeke BrownArtist
Sarita Daftary
Betty YuArtist
Melissa Cultural Worker and Organizer (Former LP Staff)
Elvira ClaytonArtist
Xenia
Malanya G.Artist
Gabriel Garcia RomanArtist
NathanNYC Parks
Diya VijCultural Producer
Shannon FinneganArtist
Zena Zendejaa
Sarah MaxfieldOperations Lead, ArtsPool
Sam DoyonArtsPool
Ellen ShadburnArtsPool Services Cooperative
SarahArtist and Educator
Noa WesleyMuseum Educator
Xin XinAssistant Professor, The New School
Mana
Savannah FalzaranoCreative
Emily MelloEducator and Curator
Jendayi
American ArtistPart-time Faculty, The New School
Donnie Welch Teaching Artist
Mellasenah N. Edwards Artist & Educator
Brighid K. Greene Artist and Administrator
Julian Louis PhillipsArtist
E G Condon
EllaGraphic Designer
Alejandro Torres VieraDesigner
Alison GreenbergNEW INC
Kacy GeorgeTeacher
Emma OsoreTax Payer, MTA Customer, Black Urbanist, Community Director
Melissa LiuCultural Organizer
Preeti SodhiUrban Planner
VicFreelance Designer
Amelia Brod The Laundromat Project
Patrick JaojocoWriter, Organizer, Curator; FABnyc / Decolonial Mapping Toolkit
Becca LynchLaw Student/Theatre Artist
Caitlin BerriganArtist
Stefani BardinArtist/Professor, NEW INC + NYU
D. King
José M.Concierge
Sina Basila HickeyVisual Artist & Organizer
Tanya ScruggsFordVisual Artist
George Suttles Harlem resident
Sasha Bonét Writer & Inhabitant of NYC
Clarinda Mac LowCulture Push
Marie D’ovidioDesigner
Allie Mason
Gena MimozoArtist
VicImmigrant Trans Man of Color
ZiiRevolutionist
Rosana LiangKickstarter
BGSUNY Employee
Cole Yaverbaum
Shaniece Frank Artist and Educator
Caroline L. FalbyArtist; NYC Public School Parent
Carolyn Ahearn
Sunny VazquezArtist
Carlos G. CorreaPhD Student, Princeton University
Hannes Bend
Rhae RoyalMedia Composer
Echo Artist
Julia ParrisPhotographer and Art Director
Lee BullittVideo Editor, Artist
StaceyDesign
Isabel UrbinaGraphic Designer
Amélie LamontMultidisciplinary Designer and Writer
HT
John BradfordDesigner
Daniel Ranells
David EardleyPink Essay
Frances PharrEducator, Designer
Moira WilliamsDisabled Artist, Organizer, Curator
Brianna HarlanDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Organizer
Susan ZelinskiResearcher
Susan ZelinskiResearcher
Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani Artist & Educator, The New School / Buscada
Jeanine HaysAphroChic
Kira Simon-KennedyCo-Founder & Director, China Residencies
Jennifer L MussariSelf-Employed
PJ Gubatina PolicarpioYouth Educator, Curator, Community Organizer
Toisha TuckerArtist
Sallishah Ali
J. FreebornTeacher
JakeConsultant
Omayeli ArenyekaSoftware Engineer, LinkedIn
Seth McCallResearcher
Mitchell ReeceCommunity
Anniessa AntarMuseum Worker
Tiffany KapriHospitality
MaeArtist
Sydnee Novack
Ariel René JacksonArtist
King
DanielEditor
Wendy BrawerEco-Designer
Jahan Mantin
Elizabeth Clark
Mashuq Mushtaq DeenPlaywright
Margo Cohen RistorucciArt Worker, Brooklyn Museum
Allison ThompsonTeacher
Susan MisraConsultant
Anastasia Warren
Emily B.Teaching Artist
ClaudiaDoula
e.g.
Brianna Cain Video Editor
Sarah Higgins Lawyer
Jessica
KwameSouthwest Workers Union
Ish Al-HariyyahCommunity Leader
Jessica L MarlorComposer
Boo Froebel
Leah Asha AllenBed-Stuy
Ifetayo A.Museum Administrator
Lindsey Foster
Ara-Zior WilsonCommunity
Tiana ThomasNYC Resident & Affordable Housing Manager
SariyahLP Fellow, Non-Profit Education
Heather Benjamin Public Health and Human Rights Philanthropy
Brooke K.Designer
Argenis Apolinario Photographer
Farnoosh Hashemian
Salina
Josephine StewartEditor
Kelly MytingerHarm Reductionist
Denise Marie Tomasini-JoshiSubway Rider
Kitson SmythSocial Worker
Erika NelsonSocial Worker
Emily Grayson
Julia Pimes MataLaundromat Project Fellow
Emily WhalenAttorney
S. DratwaEngineering Manager
Tayla DuarteUS Army
Shelby Iwatani CramerCommunity Organizer and Teacher
Jessi Duncanson
Jennette
Diana Torres Hawken
Zoe BielCommuter
Colleen HughesArts Administrator
Jake C.
Amanda EverichTeaching Artist
Denman C. Anderson
Dr Ezat Luba YomtovianVeterinarian
Emily Gallagher Candidate for 50th Assembly District
Keshet Sivan
Kacey M. Byczek
JonicaPhotographer
Rory MitchellDocumentary Filmmaker
Tara L. Daniels
Jessica LeeDance and Teaching Artist, Arts Organizer
Maya SimoneArtist & Subway Rider
Jerome HarrisDesign Director, Housing Works
Becca Albee
Greta KroesslerArtist & Educator
Cortnie Community
Hossannah AsuncionWriter/Educator
Leeanne G-BowleyArtistic/Executive Director In-Sight Dance
Carolyn A’Hearn
Patrice Aphrodite Helmar Artist & Professor
Joan Educate
Danielle RosalesDesigner
Shera NusbaumHome Maker
Anna SimonseBusiness Consultant
Doug AshfordArtist, Teacher
ThuyAuditor
Terry BoddieEducator
Kirya TraberArtist
William ArmstrongNew Yorker & Union Worker
Arthur KatrinaGraphic Artist, CUNY Student
Anouk Art Student
Sarah LidgusLaundromat Project Alumni
Lucien Zayan Founder Director, The Invisible Dog Art Center
Lawrence MesichArtist & Educator, Cooper Union
Aliya BonarArtist
Justin Garcia
Kathryn McKinneyA Blade of Grass
Janelle Grace
Benedict Nguyen
Helen Andrews
Ethan BarnettPhD Student, Filmmaker
Alexis HarbourArtist + Child Welfare Advocate
Natalia VieraIndependent Curator
Sara ZielinskiArtist
Frankie AltamuraArts Worker & Organizer
Molly HessArtist + Educator
Sherry MillnerMedia Artist & Professor
Ernest LarsenWriter
Ramses GonzalezDesigner
Sara O’KeeffeCurator
Cat G.Art Estate Director
June LeiArts and Culture Worker
Omar AbreuArtist
Louise LawlerArtist
Rebecca McGivneyArts Administrator
Jackson BeydaArtist
Rebecca WelzArtist and Educator
Shivon LoveCulinary Artist
Joelle Te PaskeCollege Art Association
Pope JacksonArtist
Lexie FisherCUNY Student
AshleyMultidisciplinary Artist
Trevor Davis
Josh HoffmanSocial Worker
Elaina RichardsonCentral Harlem Resident, Arts Administrator
Christa Blatchford
Jorge DonosoYaddo
Alexin TenefranciaPratt Institute
Chon CousinsCreate Change Alumni
Justin Garrett MooreBlackSpace
Stefanie SiegelExecutive Director and Founder, Bailey’s Cafe
Ella M MahoneyArtist
Jessica RankinArtist
Siyona RaviThe Laundromat Project Alumni
CyrilleProfessor
Kim SavarinoArtist
Curtis D. YoungArtistic Noise
Assetou XangoPoet and Activist
Liz McGloneTeacher
Tara
Rachel
Walter A. Oruam Jr.
Jenny Polak Artist
Prithi KanakamedalaBronx Community College CUNY
Chelsea LipmanCampaigner, Activist, Brooklyn Resident, Angry Tax Payer
Saul RobbinsArtist and Professor
Kylie L.
Sonya FergusonCommunity Liaison
Lyra Monteiro The Museum On Site, Rutgers University-Newark
Alyssa AlexanderIndependent Curator/Arts Administrator
Amy EllenbogenSocial Worker
Nathan Hewitt
Martina RadwanFilmmaker
Sejin ParkArtist and Educator
Maddie PinneyCommunications Associate, Eyebeam
Horst RosenbergTeacher
Rick SegalFinancial Services
Susan SiegelCommunity Transformer
Stefan HagenCommunity Member, Director Montello Foundation
Jacob SevernWriter, Editor
Molly GrossCultural Worker
Kaitlyn KellyProject Manager
Janine Renee CunninghamPerformance Maker, Artist
Shay G.New York Commuter
Rosy KalfusStrategist
Sady SullivanOral History/Public History/Archives Worker
shoham aradDirector
Sara MorganCommunications Manager, Socrates Sculpture Park
CJ
Eleanor CrawfordArtist
Carolyn LambertLecturer
Maggie ReillyArtist/Teacher
SophiaArtist
Simone Healthcare
Mildred BeltreArtist, Educator
Ron KavanaughExecutive Director, Literary Freedom Project
Veronica W. Finance
Rassan GaryCustomer Relations Professional
CiErra LigginsConcerned Citizen
Cindy HinantHarlem Artist
Laila A. StevensArtist
Laura Di Piazza
Bridget R. CooksProfessor
Ann MessnerArtist, Teacher
Emma ZurerArts Coordinator
Shawn Escarciga Artist
Sawu J.Manager
Hadeel AssaliFilmmaker, Anthropologist
Mohini
JDigital Campaigner
Ilana MasterCommunity Organizer
Sara M. BernalBaker
Daniel OcantoMusician
Jackie FurtadoStudent
Phoebe DevincenziEducation Manager
Sophie GlickmanTeacher
Julia Sillen
Liz RosarioTeacher
Vicki CapoteHuman Being
Tara Plath
Melissa Lopez
Elisa Etrari
Suresh DianandCommunity Organizer and Volunteer to Many Causes
Melvin T. PetersEmeritus Professor of African Aemrican Studies, EMU
Ashina
Isabella P. KulkarniAudio Producer and Editor
Cyrille P.Professor
UmberVisual Artist and Educator
Etta SandryArtist, Educator
Alisa BesherCenter for the Humanities, CUNY Graduate Center
Serena MarieCommunity Organizer
Jamerry KimArtist and Educator
Sophie MitchellPost Producer
Roberte Lescouflair Education
J. SotoManager, Programs and Inclusion, Eyebeam
Eleanor KippingArtist / Educator / Arts Administrator
Gabe GordonNew York Resident
Sara BodinsonEducator
Jordan W.Artist
Solana ChehtmanArts Administrator
Sabrina ChinCultural Producer
Joseph LiatelaArtist and MFA candidate, Columbia University
Aiesha Turman, Ph.DEducator
Dr. Shanté Paradigm Smalls Associate Professor, Black Literature & Culture, St. John’s University
Cordelia JuneCommunity Concierge
Maura CuffieCommunity Member
Jennifer Armas
Jennifer BCitizen
Jessica Svenson
Arianna Chavez
Andrea GilArts Administrator
Maxine MontilusArtistic Director, MV Dance Project
A. ZacheryCommunity
Sandra GarnerIndependent Producer, Lingua Franca Arts
nina macintoshArtist
Ambrus GeroPratt I.
Mandy WongArtist
Chanel GovreauTeacher
Richard MorrisonEditorial Director, Fordham University Press
Chitra AiyarSubway Rider
Jennifer Ching
George Suttles Harlem
Emily KrellCultural Producer
John WeirAssociate Professor of English & Creative Writing, Queens College CUNY
Marlon WilliamsPublic Sector Consultant – Living Cities
Jason GurevitchSoftware Engineer
Aaron CoppTheater Artist
Cherie Blum Sales Executive
Jody Kuh
Carrie HawksArtist/Filmmaker
Stephanie CunninghamCultural Worker
Sheila McDaniel
Sarah NichollsArtist and Educator
Jessica Diaz
Anu Sharma
Charlie Vázquez Consultant
Dena MullerParent
Suzy Myers JacksonNonprofit
Ricardo DominguezProfessor
Lissette T. OlivaresCo Founder Sin Kabeza Productions/SK Symbiotic
Stephanie JauchArtsPool
Imani Kai Johnson Professor
Michelle Y. Thompson
Ayana Hosten
Kiersten NashAdjunct Professor at Parsons
Zachary TaylorGraduate Student
Heather HartArtist
Kiara DunnEducator
Erica MagreyArtist and Professor
Chayanne Marcano Art Worker
E. Jane Artist/Musician
Maya Shah
Maya SuessManaging Director, Flux Factory
Jonathan GardenhireArtist; District Leader, NYS 65th
Assembly District Part B
Tammy Gardener
DJ
William FurioArtist / Events Specialist
Munira Khapra-ReiningerHuman Being
Iris Community
IvyCheck Casher
Paul NewellDistrict Leader
Jasmin Sánchez Community Organizer
Marlene Gardenhire
A Klein Artist
Sofia Crouch
Diana Aldahondo Homemaker
Nicky EnrightArtist

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