Safety First! Pols Urge MTA to Keep Subway Agents

Citing Zazi case, trio fears cuts could jeopardize security

Saturday, Mar 13, 2010  |  Updated 3:57 PM EDT
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Safety First! Pols Urge MTA to Keep Subway Agents

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The MTA says subway safety won't be compromised because of the heavy police presence in the stations.

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Three members of Congress are warning that a plan to lay off hundreds of station agents in New York City's subway system could compromise security.

The three Democrats are asking the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to find other ways to close an $800 million budget gap.

U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Yvette Clarke of New York say in a letter to the MTA's chairman that the workers are "an important link in the transit security chain.''

An MTA spokesman says subway safety will not suffer given the strong police presence. The agency says the cut backs will save $50 million.

The workers staff customer service booths at some subway entrances -- and without them, the congressional representatives claim, the stations will be more vulnerable to attack.

"Although our domestic transit systems have thus far been spared," they wrote, "deadly terrorist attacks in Spain, Great Britain, India and Russia over the last few years have emphasized the vulnerabilities of public transportation in large urban areas and demonstrated the security challenges unique to these open, passenger-heavy systems."

The congressional trio cited the case of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant who admitted last month that he engaged in a terrorism plot to bomb the New York City transit system. Investigators called the plot, which was purportedly to be carried out around the anniversary of Sept. 11, among the most dangerous since terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers.

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