Reverend Billy preaching to the commuted (photo by Brennan Cavanaugh)

Reverend Billy preaching to the commuted (photo by Brennan Cavanaugh)

Savitri Durkee singing the campaign them song (photo by Brennan Cavanaugh)

Savitri Durkee singing the campaign them song (photo by Brennan Cavanaugh)

NYC – Mayoral Green Party candidate Billy Talen, better known as Reverend Billy, took his gospel of an affordable, neighborhood friendly New York City under ground this past Thursday. That is, in an performance-action entitled “F the Fare Hike,” Talen rode the F train from Broadway-Lafayette Street station to Jamaica Street in Queens to Coney Island, preaching all the while against the recently announced public transportation fare hike, and criticizing the tactics of his mayoral race rival, incumbent Michael Bloomberg.

Talen donned a blue cobalt suit with his signature priest’s collar. His hair, as always, was bleached blond and he carried what is often an extension of his lips, a long, white bullhorn. He was accompanied by a handful of volunteers handing out pamphlets for his candidacy and about half dozen green robbed choir members, from his performance-activist group “The Church of Life After Shopping’ (formerly known as ‘The Church of Stop Shopping”), including life partner and Church director, Savitri Durkee.

Talen and company stayed on the F train most of the day, changing subway cars at every stop, where he would introduce himself to the patrons as the Green Party candidate for mayor. He also explained that he was there to talk about the fare hike, which was “decided upon,” he said, “ by a bunch of guys in the middle of the night,” referring to a meeting held a few weeks ago by the New York State Senate and Assembly. The meeting resulted in the scrapping of former MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority) Chairman Richard Ravitch’s plan, which sought to minimalize the need for fare hikes with a business pay roll tax and tolls for the East River and Harlem River Bridges. The Ravitch plan was publically discussed, whereas the State legislature’s decision came without notice or public discourse.
“That’s not democracy,” Talen told the subway passengers.

Talen suggested that this lack of transparency and democratic decision making is all too common, connecting the incident to Bloomberg’s undemocratic approach to governance. Namely, how Bloomberg got city council to abolish the two term limit voted upon by New Yorkers in two separate referendums, and how the mayor is spending, according to Talen, $100 million on advertising for his campaign. Talen sees Bloomberg as having bribed his way out of term limits and of attempting to buy this upcoming election. He then asked riders to consider his candidacy as a democratic alternative, emphasizing one of his key platform points: protecting the authentic character of New York’s neighborhoods from gentrification (or further gentrification), with its consequent rent hikes and the squeezing out of local businesses in favor of chain stores. Talen also said that talking in public spaces, like subway trains, was representative of the possibility of “restoring democracy” to New York City.

Talen managed to present his speech in the minute or so ride between each stop, with a few seconds to spare for the choir to sing the campaign theme song, a variation on the Sinatra classic “New York, New York,” offering such alternative lyrics as “start spreading the wealth” (instead of “start spreading the news”) and “it’s up to us New York“ (instead of “it’s up to you”).

The campaign intends to hold similar events on nearly every subway line in New York City, leading up to the November 3rd election.

For more information about Reverend Billy Talen and his mayoral campaign go to voterevbilly.org and revbilly.com