New York MTA Demands More Cops on Subways as Workers Attacked

The heads of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its largest labor union are asking Mayor Bill de Blasio to send more cops to the city’s subway system after an off-duty transit worker was slashed in the face.

Assaults and harassment on the system have increased during the pandemic, putting riders and transit workers at risk. MTA officials have been seeking additional policing to address the problem and boost customer confidence in the system.

“This is happening every day,” said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of MTA’s New York City Transit, which manages its subways and buses. She spoke Thursday during a press briefing outside the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens, where the employee is in critical care after the morning incident on the J train in Queens. “Everyday this is happening. And it’s outrageous.”

Crime on the subway system is undermining the MTA’s push to get riders back onto its network of subways, buses and commuter rail lines as more people consider returning to offices after more than a year of working from home. The largest mass-transit provider in the U.S. plans to restart 24-hour subway service on May 17, two days before the city is set to fully reopen. More than half of New York adults have gotten at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot, and de Blasio welcomed 80,000 city workers back to their offices this week.

New York City needs a safe and reliable transit system to get people around the city and help it come out of the pandemic, Pat Foye, the MTA’s chief executive officer, said during the briefing. He was joined by TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano.

Safety Push

“As the city returns from Covid-19, people need to be safe and they need to feel safe while riding subways, buses and commuter rails, period,” Foye said. “Or they won’t come back to transit, which means not coming back to New York City.”

The MTA needs an additional 500 police officers, Foye said earlier Thursday on Bloomberg Radio.

The MTA’s focus on crime is discouraging people from riding mass transit, Mitch Schwartz, a spokesperson for de Blasio, said in an email.

“The transit force is thousands strong -- hundreds of additional officers have surged to the areas that need it most,” Schwartz said. “It’s truly outrageous to lie to discourage people from using the subways, and it’s time for the MTA and the governor to stop publicly rooting against New York City’s economic recovery.”

The pandemic decimated ridership on the subway, which is now carrying only about one-third of its pre-pandemic passengers. The MTA needs to bring back riders to help restore its finances. While the agency will get $14.5 billion of federal aid to cover lost revenue, it faces budget deficits as soon as 2024.

A recent survey conducted by the MTA found 72% of active customers are very concerned with crime and harassment on the system, surpassing worries about health safety. For people who have stopped taking public transit, 36% have done so because of safety concerns.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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