Subway troubles delay, define Cynthia Nixon’s first campaign event

Cynthia Nixon riding the subway
Photo: Cynthia Nixon for NY (YouTube)

Sex and the City star and education activist Cynthia Nixon launches progressive campaign against Andrew Cuomo for governor of New York

Cynthia Nixon’s first campaign event as a candidate for governor of New York, where she planned to criticize incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the subway and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), got off to a late start when she was delayed by stalled subways.

“I got here just in the nick of time,” Nixon told supporters as she arrived in Brownsville, Brooklyn. “I allowed an hour and a half for what should have been a 30-minute ride. Cuomo’s MTA.”

“We need to fix our broken subway,” said Nixon. “It gets worse every day. You know that, and I know that, because we are on it every day unlike Governor Cuomo. The subway is the lifeblood of our city. If the subway dies, so does New York and right now our subway is on life support.”

The entire MTA, which operates the network of buses, trains, and subways in downstate New York, has been under increasing strain over the last two decades amid overcrowding, outdated equipment, and mismanagement.

Nearly six million riders use the MTA every day, but the system has the least consistent performance of any major rapid transit system in the world, according to The New York Times.

Subway ridership has nearly doubled since the 1990s, from 1 billion annual riders to almost 2 billion riders in 2015, according to the Federal Transit Administration. Meanwhile, the number of subway cars in has remained flat.

Badly needed improvements to the MTA’s signal equipment have been delayed while politicians have pursued expensive pet projects, leaving workers unsure of where trains actually are in the system due to the outdated and failing tech used on the subway, Long Island Rail Road, and Metro-North Railroad.

Nixon blames Cuomo for not doing enough to address the city and state’s transportation crisis.

“His idea of modernizing the subway system was adding Wi-Fi and digital displays – not fixing the 1930s-era signal system or the hundred-year-old tunnels,” she writes on her campaign website.

A different kind of Democrat

Nixon’s campaign against Cuomo is about a lot more than just the city’s subway system. It’s about her rejection of Gov. Cuomo and what she calls “corporate Democrats.”

“Eight years ago, I voted for Andrew Cuomo because I believed he was a real Democrat,” she said. Now she refers to him as a “fake Democrat” and suggested he is in the pocket of conservative corporate donors.

“The Koch Brothers donated $87,000 to Andrew Cuomo when he first ran in 2010, because they knew a good investment when they saw one,” said Nixon. “They knew whether or not he called himself a Democrat, his policies were going to benefit corporations like theirs and billionaires like them. And they were dead right.”

Nixon is promising not to accept corporate money as part of her campaign to seize the Democratic nomination from Cuomo in this September’s primary.

She went on to blame Cuomo for helping Republicans take control of the state Senate with a backroom deal in 2011 while passing budgets and policies that have “starved” New York’s cities and rural areas of funding and services.

“His inhumane budgets have been passed on the backs of our children, our elderly, our working class, and people of color,” she said.

Nixon said as governor she will address the rampant inequality that plagues New York state, noting that the top one percent of New Yorkers make 45 times as much what the other 99 percent of New Yorkers make combined.

She is also focusing on inequality in the state’s education system.

“Too many of the majority black and brown schools in our very segregated system are underfunded and over-policed,” she said. “Our schools are pushing white children toward college, and black children into the criminal justice system. And that has to change.”

Actress and activist

Nixon is already facing skepticism from some Democrats in the Trump era who are uncomfortable with electing a celebrity who has never held public office to be the chief executive in one of the country’s most reliably liberal states.

Even her opponent Andrew Cuomo has already claimed she has little more to offer than “name recognition.”

“But if it’s just about name recognition, then I’m hoping that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Billy Joel don’t get into the race because if it’s just about name recognition, that would really be a problem,” he told reporters earlier this month.

However, Nixon is more than just an actress seeking office, she is a well-connected, longtime activist for progressive causes in New York and around the country.

Nixon’s political awakening came in the early 2000s when she began dating education activist Christine Marinoni, the director of New York’s Alliance for Quality Education. In 2004, she announced that she would send her children to public schools. Nixon later became a spokesperson for the Alliance for Quality Education and has fought city plans that would result in “de facto” segregation of public schools.

For years, Nixon has also been a player in national politics, campaigning for President Barack Obama’s reelection in Florida and Virginia, fighting for marriage equality, and speaking at rallies for Planned Parenthood.

Since the election of Donald Trump, Nixon has become a leading celebrity activist in the anti-Trump “resistance” and spoke at the 2016 Women’s March in New York City.