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Gov Hochul to sign bill imposing harsher penalties for assaulting transit workers

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Gov. Kathy Hochul is set to sign a bill into law Monday imposing harsher punishment on anyone who assaults a transit worker. 

Union leaders said transit workers face an increasing number of attacks. At least seven workers have been assaulted in the last month. 

Video from May 5 shows a BX18 bus operator being kicked and punched by two people after police said the pair boarded and threw an unknown liquid in the driver’s face. 

As of May, there were more than 542 incidents of harassment and 15 assaults on MTA buses.

Sacha Alvarez, a bus driver, was attacked several months ago and is still on edge. 

“I actually have like nightmares of just a bus coming into my house or a man trying to attack me,” Alvarez said. 

The bill makes it a second-degree felony to assault a transit worker. It passed unanimously, 150-0, in the State Assembly. The State Senate passed it 62-2. 

Existing laws already protected train and bus conductors and operators, station agents and cleaners. This bill expands the law to cover all workers, including repair staff and equipment inspectors.

The transit workers union said it’s thankful both houses of the legislature recognize safety issues in the transit system. But the union said safety protocols can go further. 

“We’re so unprotected. We have a barrier which they reach over and try to open,” said Monique Rondon, MTA chief shop steward. 

Transit workers are also calling for harsher penalties for spitting on workers. It’s currently a violation, but they say it should be a misdemeanor.

They also want floor-to-ceiling barriers on new buses to better protect drivers and increased police patrols on certain bus lines. 

Under the new law, those who cause physical injury to a transit worker could face up to seven years in prison.

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