Brooklyn straphangers got free rides on Wednesday morning courtesy of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — or so they thought.
A team of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators propped open emergency exits in at least four Brooklyn subway stations and posted meticulously crafted phony MTA signs proclaiming “Free Entry, No Fares Collected: Please enter through the service gate.”
The pranksters used chains and padlocks to prop open the gates at the Ninth Avenue D, the Beverly Road Q, and the Carroll Street F stations starting at around 5 am, according to the Daily News.
At the F and G station on Fort Hamilton Parkway, a man who looked like an MTA employee waved commuters through an open exit gate in front of one of fake signs, according to an eyewitness.
“I got to the turnstiles and saw a sign on one — a guy was hunched over the other telling people, ‘Don’t swipe your card!’” said Steve LeVine, who thought the free ride was officially sanctioned by the transit agency until he heard about the stunt later. “They did a great job reproducing something that looked official!”
Protesters from Occupy Wall Street took credit for the ruse in a blog post, claiming their operatives joined forces with MTA workers from the Transit Workers Union Local 100 — the MTA’s largest worker’s union — and the Amalgamated Transit Union to protest service cuts, rising fares, the agency’s attitude toward labor unions, and its ballooning debt from bonds.
“Despite the fact that buses and subways are supposed to be a public service, the government and the MTA have turned the system backwards — into a virtual ATM for the super-rich,” the organization wrote on its website. “This fare strike is a means for workers and riders to fight for shared interests together.”
A representative for the TWU-100, which abandoned labor talks with the MTA in January, denied that his union took part in the stunt — which Occupiers claim hit 20 stations citywide.
“We agree with some of the sentiments but not the tactics,” said union spokesman Jim Gannon. “We didn’t know about it and had no involvement in any way.”
The ATU did not return calls and a spokesman from the MTA refused to comment.
But many commuters said they were thrilled with the free ride.
“This is pretty cool,” said Adam Gabel, before getting on the train at the Fort Hamilton F and G station. “The most impressive thing about this is that it looks so real.”
Police are investigating but said no arrests had been made.