By Bill Parry
A grassroots coalition praised the MTA board of directors last week for its decision to eliminate alcohol advertising on New York City buses, subway cars and stations. Over 650,000 young people use New York City Transit to go to and from school and the board’s action will ensure that those children and youth will not be further exposed to alcohol advertising — a recognized risk factor for underage drinking.
The vote was a culmination of a four-year campaign led by a coalition consisting of youth-serving organizations, faith leaders, public health practitioners, LGBTQ organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens. The coalition, dubbed “Building Alcohol Free Transit, or BAFFT, garnered endorsements from over 160 organizations across the five boroughs.
BAFFT recognized City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who introduced a Council resolution calling for the alcohol ban along with the 26 Council members who co-sponsored the resolution.
“I applaud the MTA board of directors for doing right by New York City children,” Dromm said. “I am pleased that the authority agrees that beer and liquor advertisements have no place in our transit system. Underage drinking is a serious problem in our city, and I am glad that the MTA is doing its part to push back against it.”
Prior to the vote, Dromm and several other coalition members gave testimony at the public comments section of the Oct. 25 board meeting in favor of the alcohol ban.
“No longer will alcohol companies be permitted to use New York City’s public transportation system to disproportionately target low-income communities and communities of color with aggressive alcohol advertising,” Public Citizen Campaign Coordinator Kristen Strader said. “The MTA’s decision to eliminate alcohol ads is a win for public health and health equity.”
Underage drinking leads to over 7,000 emergency room visits in New York City every year, according to Dromm,
“This is an astounding victory for children,” U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance Chairwoman Diane Riibe said. “New York City got it right, and on behalf of all our children, we’re calling on cities across the country to follow suit.”
The decision comes at a time when the MTA is requesting hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending to repair a broken subway system. The alcohol ads bring nearly $2.5 million in revenue to the MTA each year.
“There will be an initial hit,” MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said. ““When the people here at the MTA make the subway system better, it will be a better place to advertise and people will want to advertise more.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr