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MTA has nothing to show for Cuomo’s $24M war on farebeating: Comptroller

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The MTA has nothing to show for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s years-long war on fare evasion, according to a damning new audit by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

In fact, the MTA’s estimated costs from fare evasion actually increased over the audit period — from $150 million in 2017 to over $300 million three years later, according to the report published Monday.

Transit officials “did not provide assurance” that the joint MTA-NYPD task force launched by Cuomo in 2019 had any impact, auditors said.

“By the MTA’s own account fare evasion is an increasingly serious and costly problem that predates the pandemic, but its attempts to deal with it aren’t working,” DiNapoli said.

“Lost revenue has doubled at a time when MTA needs every dollar and employees remain at risk.”

The joint farebeating task force was launched at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s behest in mid-2019.

But the comptroller found the group ceased meeting at the outset of the pandemic, and kept no minutes of the meetings it did hold. The program’s true cost, meanwhile, is “significantly understated,” the report said.

Transit officials provided comptroller auditors with an estimated price tag — $24 million per year — that does not factor in the full cost of police deployment, DiNapoli said.

Making matters worse, auditors out in the field found that some MTA operations make it easier for riders to skip the fare. Emergency exits at stations and bus back doors, for example, often stay open for long periods of time, the report said — while signage informing riders to pay their fares is often nowhere to be found.

A report from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli claims that the farebeating task force has not been successful.
A report from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli claims that the farebeating task force has not been successful.

Auditors also observed transit workers inadvertently let nearly two dozen riders skip fares after using their MTA keys to open emergency gates, the report said.

At the same time, enforcement was mostly passive, and auditors observed cops, fare agents, bus operators and other MTA workers letting dozens of people ride without paying.

MTA cops issued just 1,514 farebeating violations in the 12 months after the task force launched — compared to 36,675 verbal “warnings,” which auditors found often go unreported.

DiNapoli’s report dinged officials for providing incomplete fare evasion stats to the MTA board, even as they told directors and the public those stats were cause for concern.

“If the fare evasion dilemma is as severe as MTA says, it needs to regularly and accurately update its board on the problem and the costs of addressing it,” he said.

The MTA’s methodology has previously been called into question by MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny and continues to be a work-in-progress, according to MTA sources.

“Fare evasion is a systemwide problem that deprives the transit system of critical resources and is unfair to the vast majority of customers who pay their fair share,” agency rep Meredith Daniels said in a statement.

“We appreciate the work of the State Comptroller’s Office and look forward to continuing to work with them on this important issue.”

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NYPD releases video of gunman firing into group in the Bronx

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New video tweeted by the NYPD Sunday shows a gunman wildly firing down a Bronx street into a group of people in Fordham Manor, leaving two men wounded, cops said.

“WANTED for ASSAULT: Do you know this guy?” the NYPD wrote on Twitter.

“On 6/25/21 at approx 11:10 PM, in front of 2710 Morris Ave in the Bronx, the suspect fired several rounds towards a group, striking a 26-year-old male and a 20-year-old. Any info? DM @NYPDTips, or anonymously call them at 800-577-TIPS.”

The suspect who shot at a group of people in the Bronx on June 25, 2021.
The suspect who shot at a group of people in the Bronx on June 25, 2021.
NYPD
The suspect firing the gun in the Bronx.
The suspect firing the gun in the Bronx.
NYPD
The shooting left two people injured, according to the NYPD.
The shooting left two people injured, according to the NYPD.
NYPD

The 26-year-old was shot in the buttocks and the 20-year-old was shot in the leg, police said. Both were expected to survive.

The victims said they were standing with a group of friends when the “guy just came up and started shooting,” a police spokesman said.

No words were exchanged, video shows. 

There were no immediate arrests.

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FDA finds peeling paint, debris at US plant making J&J’s COVID vaccine

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A US plant that was making Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine must fix a long list of problems including peeling paint and unsanitary conditions and practices to resume operation, according to a highly critical report by the Food and Drug Administration.

Experts said addressing the issues raised in the scathing FDA inspection report could take months.

Neither J&J nor the FDA has said when they expect vaccine production to restart at the Baltimore plant owned by Emergent Biosolutions. Only two other plants are currently equipped to supply the world with the key drug substance for J&J’s vaccine.

“It may take many months to make these changes,” said Prashant Yadav, a global health care supply chain expert at the Center for Global Development. He described some of the issues raised by the FDA as “quite significant.”

No vaccine manufactured at the Emergent plant has been distributed for use in the United States. However, J&J said it will exercise its oversight authority to ensure that all of the FDA observations are addressed promptly and comprehensively.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on a pause in the US over a potential link to a blood clotting condition.
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The health care conglomerate has drawn scrutiny for months over its halting process to scale up production of a vaccine that is easier to handle and, by virtue of being a single shot, easier to use than other authorized vaccines.

Its use in the United States has been paused since last week as health officials study a possible link to a very rare but serious blood clot condition.

Emergent has been seeking regulatory authorization to make the J&J vaccine in the United States. It stopped production at the plant recently, saying the FDA had asked it to do so after an inspection.

J&J’s plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, is still producing doses for the world. It has another facility in India, which is currently curtailing exports of the shot as it struggles to vaccinate its own population.

Johnson & Johnson reiterated on Wednesday that it was working to establish a global supply chain in which 10 manufacturing sites would be involved in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to the Leiden plant.

The company has a US government-brokered agreement with rival drugmaker Merck, which is preparing to make doses of J&J’s vaccine.

Failure to train personnel

The FDA in its final 12-page inspection report said it had reviewed security camera footage in addition to an in-person site visit to the Emergent plant.

It found a failure to train personnel to avoid cross-contamination of COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which had also been produced at the site. The agency also cited staff carrying unsealed bags of medical waste in the facility, bringing it in contact with containers of material used in manufacturing.

The FDA reviewed security camera footage and visited the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore.
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Earlier this week, the House launched an investigation into whether Emergent used its relationship with a Trump administration official to get a vaccine manufacturing contract despite a record of not delivering on contracts.

Emergent said in a statement that it is working with the FDA and J&J to quickly resolve the issues outlined in the report.

Production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the United States, was previously stopped at the Emergent plant after ingredients from that shot contaminated a batch of J&J vaccine, ruining millions of doses.

The FDA also noted that Emergent did not produce adequate reports showing that the vaccines it was producing met quality standards.

The inspection, carried out between April 12 and April 20, also found the building not of suitable size or design to facilitate cleaning, maintenance or proper operations.

J&J said it was redoubling its efforts to get authorization for the facility as quickly as possible.

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One dead after pair of fires breaks out in Manhattan

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One person was killed and several others were injured in a pair of Manhattan fires Wednesday morning, officials said.

The first blaze erupted in Midtown around 8:15 a.m. inside a DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse at 213 W. 34th St., where an escalator became fully engulfed in flames — sending smoke billowing into the first and second floor and the interconnected 40-story hotel building, fire officials said.

It was not immediately clear which hotel it was.

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries putting out the blaze.

“The fire went out, but we have a smoke condition that we’re trying to alleviate,” FDNY Battalion Chief John Porretto said at the scene. “Units are going to remain on scene until all the smoke alleviates.”

The fire marshal will determine the causes of the fire.

A second blaze broke out 15 minutes later on the Upper East Side at 1576 2nd Ave., officials said.

A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th Street in Manhattan that left one dead
A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th St. in Manhattan left one dead.
NYFD

One man died in the fire and a second man was in serious condition at Lenox Hill Hospital, police said.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the blaze and was taken to Cornell Hospital, fire officials said.

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