By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Stuy Town resident and Congressional candidate Peter Harrison announced his campaign to make public transit free and increase accessibility throughout the system on Tuesday morning at the corner of First Avenue and East 14th Street.
Harrison’s proposal, the “Freedom of Movement in America Plan,” calls on the federal government to spend $1.7 trillion on public transportation over the next 10 years. One component of the plan is to make transit completely fare-free and provide $17 billion in federal funding to cover fare revenue, in addition to providing $9 billion in funding for paratransit in order to achieve 100% accessibility for public transit.
Another aspect of the proposal would fund the Federal Railroad Administration in order to invest $150 billion in Amtrak, $150 billion into the development of high-speed rail and update rolling stock to decarbonized, emission-free systems within 12 years at a cost of $500 million a year.
Harrison, a Democratic Socialist who is challenging incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in District 12, said that his plan isn’t intended to punish car-owners, but aims to make transportation more accessible for everyone, especially residents who can’t afford cars.
“There’s nothing wrong with having to rely on a car,” he said. “What this plan calls for is making it so that you can live in a city without needing a car because in this country, you are not free if you are too poor or too far to get on a bus to go to your job. That is not freedom. That’s reality for too many New Yorkers and too many people in this country.”
Harrison said that the transit plan also has special meaning for him since he is named after his grandfather who was a motorman on the subway from the 1920s to 1960s. He raised his family in Bay Ridge until a push from urban planner Robert Moses resulted in the demolition of his neighborhood to construct the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, a double-decked six-lane highway from Brooklyn to Staten Island.
Harrison acknowledged that $1.7 trillion over 10 years is a lot of money but argued that the money is already available and has just been mismanaged.
“We cannot afford to avoid doing this, but on the other hand, we can afford to do this,” he said. “We spent $6 trillion on 20 years of endless wars, which my opponent voted for, and we have spent a trillion dollars annually on deficits for taxes. Republicans have shown that we have enough resources in the federal government to pay for the types of infrastructure investments that we want. Putting money into our sustainable transportation system will unleash an immense amount of economic growth. We have proven that we have the resources at the federal level to do this. It’s a matter of having the political courage, and the honesty, talking to New Yorkers and Americans about what’s at stake.”
Update, Feb. 20: Maloney’s campaign has said that the defense bill the Congresswoman voted for included additional provisions, including paid parental leave for federal employees, legal counsel for domestic violence survivors, public health provisions and other initiatives, and argued that not passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would have been a security risk.