NYPD Officers Arrest Churro Vendor At Broadway Junction
After Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the MTA to hire 500 new police officers as part of a crackdown on homelessness and “quality of life issues” two months ago, New Yorkers have documented a marked increase in police presence on the subway system. Videos showing NYPD officers allegedly pointing their guns inside a subway car and punching teenagers sparked a large protest in Downtown Brooklyn last Friday. A video of a group of cops holding up an L train to remove a man from the system earlier this week generated more anger. Images of MTA Police seemingly standing idle next to turnstiles to deter fare evasion have led to questions about whether the cash-strapped MTA should be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new officers. And last night, a group of NYPD officers continued to rigorously enforce “quality of life” regulations by arresting a churro vendor at Broadway Junction.
Sofia Newman said she was getting off the train at Broadway Junction shortly after 5 p.m. on Friday night when she noticed a group of cops. “There were around four police officers surrounding one crying woman and her churro chart,” Newman told Gothamist. “They had apparently told her a few times that it was illegal to sell food inside a subway station and they were either going to confiscate her churro chart and give her a fine, or they were going to arrest her.” Newman said the officers attempted to take the car from her, but she held on to it and spoke to one of the officers in Spanish.
Oh man, this is sad, I’ve actually bought churros from this lady, she’s trying to make an honest living.
— Hødsen Krokkersen (@HudsonRiverCroc) November 9, 2019
“The plainclothes guys kept saying, “Elsa, Elsa, are you done here? I know you can speak English,'” Newman said.
This abuse of power by the NYPD happened last night at Broadway Junction, blocks from @RLEspinal office. This will continue to happen unless laws are changed that support vendors working free from harassment. https://t.co/JD2Y49Rztp
— StreetVendorProject (@VendorPower) November 9, 2019
In a statement, NYPD Detective Sophia Mason said that the vendor “was instructed in English and Spanish that she would be issued a summons and her property taken as evidence in accordance with procedure.”
“She refused to cooperate and was briefly handcuffed; officers escorted her into the command where she was uncuffed. Her property was vouchered as arrest evidence and she was released within minutes,” Mason said. “This individual has been issued ten summonses in the last five months for unlicensed vending at the same station. The Command has received numerous complaints regarding unlicensed vendors at Broadway Junction due to health concerns and individuals interfering with pedestrian flow.”
Detective Mason said that the vendor was given a summons for unlicensed vending, and did not release their name.
“The fact is that it’s a huge subway system,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told NY1 earlier this week, about whether he agreed with Governor Cuomo‘s decision to add 500 new MTA police officers. “I would guarantee you as mayor of the city, the vast majority of straphangers like to see presence in the cars, on the platforms. It is reassuring. If we can have more that’s a very good thing.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did the MTA’s press office.
Dani Lever, a spokesperson for Governor Cuomo, sent us an emailed statement.
“Crime is a major issue in the subways with arrests for robbery, felony assaults, grand larceny, and gun related incidents all up from last year but we have no knowledge of the facts of this situation so we leave it to the NYPD,” Lever said. (The total number of major felonies on the subway system in the first nine months of 2019 has decreased.)
“They’re essentially policing poverty is what they’re doing, they’re trying to stop fare evasion, harassing people who cant afford $2.75, and who are trying to make a living selling food in the subway stations,” Newman said. “That energy that could be put elsewhere, because it’s ridiculous. I hope other people continue to call these kinds of things out when they see them.”