October 25, By Tara Law
The MTA board voted unanimously today to eliminate alcohol advertisements from the NYC transit system, bowing to pressure from health advocates who claim they target children and low-income minorities.
The vote will not affect ads that are already up, since they will stay up until a given contract expires. But starting Jan. 1, no new alcohol ads–whether it be for wine, beer or liquor–will be placed. The ban applies across the entire MTA system, which includes Metro-North train cars, subway stations, inside cars, and on MTA buses.
The value of the ads is about $2.5 million annually.
Activists and politicians, including Council Member Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights, gathered before the board meeting at the MTA’s Manhattan headquarters to urge board members to ban them.
The press conference was orchestrated by the organization Building an Alcohol Ad-Free Transit (BAAFT), which is dedicated to eliminating the ads.
Council Member Dromm explained that he felt personally invested in the initiative since he first met BAAFT activists about two years ago. Dromm struggled with alcohol addiction in his youth, but has been sober for 26 years.
Dromm worked as a fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 199 in Sunnyside for 25 years. He said it was difficult to see teenagers he had taught when they were young children struggle with addiction.
“I know the detrimental effects of abuse, and to the extent that we can, we should prevent young people from getting involved with alcohol,” Dromm said.
“It’s important that our public services reflect the values of our city,” he added.
Louis Bailey, BAAFT’s community organizer and outreach coordinator, said that he was glad that the MTA has banned the ads.
“I think it’s a great step,” said Bailey. “There’s no place in transit for alcohol ads.”
Bailey said that he was troubled to see alcohol ads next to ads for children’s movies. He also claimed that there are more alcohol ads in poorer neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color.
BAAFT launched an online petition in June 2015 that called for getting rid of the ads.
“Hundreds of thousands of NYC schoolchildren use public transit every day as their ‘yellow school bus,’ [and] it is unacceptable that the MTA would expose young people to messages glorifying alcohol use…,” the petition read.
The petition received over 1,000 signatures.