Adams, union seethe over blame game involving MTA drivers

Mayoral candiadte Eric Adams, center, supported bus drivers and transit workers today in Brooklyn. Photo by Stephen Witt

Mayoral candidate Eric Adams stood with transit workers in Brooklyn on Thursday decrying what they said was the scapegoating of a bus driver who allegedly lost control of his bus and crashed into a brownstone earlier this week.

The Brooklyn borough president and union leaders also charged that the city weren’t doing enough to protect against the rise in assaults against bus drivers and transit workers.

The crash, caught on video, occurred on June 7, when the 55-year-old driver, with 13 years on the job, apparently lost control of the B49 Bus traveling southbound on Bedford Avenue in Flatbush. The crash injured 16, and MTA officials indicated actions by the driver will likely end up being the cause.

On the flip side, between October 2020 and March 2021, there have been 29 felony assaults against bus operators, in addition to 800 other incidents of harassment, according to data compiled by TWU.

Bus drivers and transit workers believe that the MTA management was too quick to blame the driver without a thorough investigation, while not doing enough to stem the violence against their workers.

Adams agreed.

“Here you have these assaults on bus drivers, or running when someone has a razor. What I am saying to you is, someone has a razor. What are we saying to you? That we’re going to penalize you for every minor issue that happens while you’re on the road. The thousands of miles you cover every day and then you’re going to turn that one episode and expose it and make you seem like you are reckless,” said Adams.

“I want to come out here today and stand with you in solidarity. We should not have these assaults on MTA employees in our subway system. We should not have these assaults on our bus drivers. We should not have this climate where it’s open season when people lend out their frustration on you, and no one seems to care. That’s what this is about,” he added.  

The transit workers and bus drivers were also up in arms about a bus driver, hailed as a hero and injured while stopping a mugging of an elderly couple, being denied worker’s compensation from the MTA because the incident happened on his lunch break.

“Transit always wants to come after a bus operator, instead of applauding our operators, instead of being with our operator and finding out how they’re doing. They’re more concerned about where they were, where they were standing, or what they were doing when they were spat on and assaulted,” said TWU Local 100 Chair Armando Serrano.

In a statement, an MTA spokesperson told reporters: “The MTA is required to follow State law when making decisions on workers compensation. Those who believe the law falls short in covering this case can and should lobby the NY legislature to change it.”