Albany should pass a plan to impose harsher punishment on people who attack and spit on transit workers, the MTA’s in-house watchdog said Wednesday.
MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny put her weight behind the proposal, buried in Gov. Cuomo’s budget, after a rash of attacks on city subways and buses.
“Vicious assaults on our hardworking MTA colleagues cannot be tolerated,” Pokorny said in a statement.
“While violence against some of New York’s transportation workers is already a serious crime, as the Governor’s 2021 budget proposes, it should be a felony to attack all of our frontline transit heroes.”
The proposal — which was included in Cuomo’s budget last year but fell by the wayside when the COVID-19 pandemic started — includes language to make spitting or other forms of aggravated harassment against transit workers punishable by up to one year behind bars.
It would also add more positions to the list of transit workers it is a felony to attack.
Current law only covers public-facing roles such as bus and train operators, ticket inspectors, conductors, signal persons and station workers. The proposal would add a number of roles that don’t typically interface with the public to the list, along with highway and DMV workers.
Pokorny herself was the victim of an assault on the job while serving as a federal prosecutor in 2008. The infamous caught-on-tape attack involved an alleged drug dealer pouncing on Pokorny with a razor as he entered the courtroom.
Officials at the MTA and its largest union, TWU Local 100, have also urged lawmakers to pass the proposal.
It will be negotiated with the state legislature along with the rest of Cuomo’s budget, which must be passed by the end of March.
The momentum comes amid of wave of violence in the New York City transit system — including an irate passenger smashing a bus driver with a 2-by-4 in Brooklyn.
The first four weeks of the 20212 saw attacks on seven bus drivers and two subway workers, according to MTA data — an increase from seven the previous four weeks.
Another 170 transit workers were victims of harassment over the same period in January, according to MTA stats — an increase of 23 percent compared to December.