The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board on Wednesday voted in favor of banning political and opinion ads from subways and buses. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
First, the microphone gave out on firebrand blogger Pamela Geller. Then, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted, in effect, to silence her, banning Geller's inflammatory advertisements from the transit system, along with all other political and "opinion" ads.
Geller spurred the policy change by paying for a series of controversial ads, like a pro-Israel ad that said Israel's enemies believe "Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah."
The MTA called the ads "hateful" and capable of inciting violence.
"You call my ads hateful? They're actual quotes!" Geller said.
Geller repeatedly battled the MTA in court, charging the transit agency was stifling her constitutional right to free speech. Last week, a federal judge agreed.
So the MTA decided to enact a blanket ban on all political advertising. The board approved the new policy 9 to 2 over objections that it was doing something unconstitutional, even un-American.
"It is unconscionable that you are thinking about barring all political ads from the transit system," said Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
"What distinguishes the United States and other free societies from those that are not is that we allow people to put up these kinds of things, and we have the ability to look away if we don't like what we're seeing," said Andrew Albert, an MTA board member.
Some supporters of the new policy said Geller's ads have no place in the transit system.
"Neither the Quran, nor the Bible, nor the Torah, nor any other compass of conscience condones hateful speech," said Charles Moerdler, an MTA board member.
Others defended the ban by saying the issue had become a distraction.
"We are a transportation agency. I do think our capital program right now is the most important thing that we are held accountable for and we need to get moving on with," said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast.
The policy change comes at a cost, but one that officials called manageable. Questionable ads that would be affected by the MTA's new policy brought in less than 1 percent of the agency's $138 million in ad revenue last year. Any of those that are still hanging around will be coming down.