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MTA Plan To Put Hundreds Of Police Officers In Subway System Sparks Funding Fight

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There's a funding fight over the proposal to put more police on the subway.

A rally was held Tuesday across the street from MTA headquarters in lower Manhattan, calling for the board to vote against a budget plan to add hundreds of officers to the MTA.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for the hiring to crack down on fare beaters and improve public safety.

MORE: MTA Hiring 500 New Transit Police Officers To Counter Assaults, Fare Evasion

"The MTA and Governor Cuomo are planning on spending almost $250 million over the next four years to hire 500 new police officers at a time when the MTA is standing on a fiscal cliff," said Jaqi Cohen with the Straphangers Campaign.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted the plan with a three-page letter and tweeted, "Punishing the poor does not create a safer environment."

The MTA fired back in a statement, saying, "We will not engage in politics when it comes to public safety."

The agency went on to say hate crimes in the subway are up more than 50%, robbery is up 11.5% and aggravated harassment is up 167%.

But opponents argue crime is down overall and more officers would lead to more arrests for low-level offenses and disproportionately target people of color.

"This is a race issue. This is a criminalizing black and brown New Yorkers issue," said Anthonine Pierre with the Brooklyn Movement Center.

Recent incidents like the woman arrested for selling churros in a Brooklyn subway station and the arrest of a candy vendor caused outrage, and rather than funding more policing, protesters argue the money could be better spent.

MORE: Hundreds Pack Harlem Streets To Protest Arrest Of Subway Food Vendors, Dozens Taken Into Custody

"We do not want this. We want better service. We do not want this. We want better accessibility in our subway system so that we have elevators that work," Sen. Michael Gianaris said.

Many New Yorkers who spoke to CBS2's Valerie Castro say they choose service over safety.

"We do need better service," one woman said.

"Yeah, why don't you spend the money on fixing the trains?" one man said.

But others hope to see improvements in both.

"I think the priority should be upgrading service, but I do understand the need for more security," one Brooklyn resident said.

The board will vote on Wednesday.

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