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Riders Alliance takes ‘cardboard’ Cuomo for ride on the 7

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Angry No. 7 train riders had plenty to say to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week, but he wasn’t hearing it. That’s because the Cuomo they were complaining to was only a cardboard cutout brought aboard the beleaguered subway line by members of the public transit advocacy group Riders Alliance to highlight the problems riders face every single day, according to the group.

“Since the MTA put forth its $32 billion, five-year capital plan, Gov. Cuomo has spent months ignoring the needs of subway and bus riders who want public transit in New York City to work for us,” Riders Alliance Deputy Director Nick Sifuentes said. “The MTA is a state agency, so it’s his responsibility to make sure it works. Unfortunately, he’s refused to fund the MTA’s capital plan—which means we can look forward to worse service and higher fares.”

The alliance invited Cuomo to ride with them in April and again at the end of the legislative session in June—a session that ended without addressing the MTA budget and its $14 billion deficit.

“We wanted him to see the crowded platforms, broken-down trains, long delays and poor communication we all deal with on a daily basis,” Sifuentes said. “Because Gov. Cuomo didn’t answer us, we decided to take him for a ride.”

So they made a 6-foot tall cardboard Cuomo and they traveled to the Court Square station from Grand Central Terminal.

The group took photos with the governor’s likeness and posted them on Twitter and Facebook, hoping it would go viral. Meanwhile, straphangers’ reaction was mixed.

“Some of the riders were confused, some angry and many thought it was funny,” Riders Alliance Senior Organizer Rebecca Bailin said. “The problem is—and it’s a problem we’re addressing through events like this—is that riders who take public transit don’t know that it’s Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature who hold the key to improving the MTA. If people knew that Gov. Cuomo was responsible and that he is currently ignoring the needs of transit riders, we think we’d have more pressure on him to act.”

The governor did not comment.

Riders Alliance member Sam Santaella, a Corona resident who depends on the No. 7, wants the governor to act before there is another rate hike.

“Paying $2.75 is already hard, I can’t imagine paying more,” he said. “I’m hoping this #RideCuomoRide tour underscores the importance of a better-funded transit system. More than anything, I want Gov. Cuomo to personally experience New York City transit today—this is not just for me. This is what tens of thousands of New Yorkers have come to rely on. Without a question, the investment will be worth it.”

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Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Updated 1:40 pm, July 17, 2015
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