Professor Nestor Davidson talked with Shumita Basu from the Gothamist and WNYC about the legal realities of trying to sue a public service provider like the MTA.
Here’s how Davidson puts it: If you’re trying to sue for spotty service, the courts in New York have been pretty clear that what you’re really saying is you don’t like the decision-making process and allocation of resources that have led to the conditions that created bad service. Which means, you have a beef with the political system around the MTA, not with the courts.
“When you’re dealing with any public entity that is providing services—whether it’s the subway or it’s police or fire or education—[questions about service]are deeply political questions, in a good sense,” explained Davidson. “Those are things that the democratic system needs to work out, because there are tradeoffs. If you say we need more police officers but fewer teachers, that’s not something courts are really going to generally second-guess.”
“I also think—and of course, we’ve seen this in the city and in the state in the last couple of years—that if you make a political issue out of this, whether through advocacy organizations or just as an ordinary citizen, politicians will eventually respond,” said Davidson.
“We’re now beginning a process of institutional reform, of rethinking oversight and rethinking the structure of the MTA and who it’s accountable to,” he continued. “I think that’s a really important conversation. It’s a conversation every subway rider, every bus rider, every commuter…people should pay attention to that. Because at the end of the day that really matters.”