The temporary surge of NYPD officers into the New York City subway system to battle a recent uptick in crime should continue until ridership fully rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia said Thursday.
During a press conference outside the 59th Street subway station in Midtown, Garcia said the NYPD must continue to maintain a robust presence in the transit system to not only keep the peace, but also restore rider confidence and security.
After ridership plunged by more than 90% at the peak of the health crisis in April 2020, upwards of 2.5 million people ride the subways each day to date. Yet that’s still only about 44% of the pre-pandemic high of 9 million daily riders.
Complicating the subway system’s comeback, Garcia noted, has been a recent surge of crime, with 119 felony assaults reported in the first three months of 2021. That was up 13 incidents from the number recorded in 2020.
On May 30, in a high-profile case, a 64-year-old man was slashed at the 59th Street station on the N/R/W line, where Garcia held her press conference on June 17, during a robbery attempt.
“Today, ridership is down 60% and we know that sparsely populated subway cars and stations can foster opportunities for criminal activity. To restore confidence in the subway, we need a clear and dedicated police presence until ridership returns,” Garcia said. “Too often, the need for New Yorkers to be safe has been undermined by political posturing. As mayor, I will prioritize problem-solving over political feuds.”
In May, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he would add about 250 police officers to the subway system, bringing the total number of officers assigned to transit to 3,250. The decision came after much feuding between the MTA and the city over whether the increased presence was required at all.
While the NYPD insisted transit crime had fallen overall, the MTA and the labor union representing many of its employees, Transport Workers Union Local 100, pushed for more cops in the system over a series of recent assaults and an overall sense of insecurity among riders.
Garcia said the surge of police officers should continue until the subway system returns to pre-pandemic levels. This, she said, would help ensure riders feel safe while riding in near-empty cars or waiting on platforms where few commuters are standing by.
The former sanitation commissioner has made public safety a key part of her platform, which includes increasing community policing and reassigning NYPD personnel to neighborhood policing; increasing youth job pathways to help address the root causes of violence; and embedding qualified mental health workers to help resolve non-violent situations.
Garcia added a little star power to her plan in also announcing support from her cousin, actor Clark Gregg, known for his roles on Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The West Wing.
“Whether it was an alien space fleet invading above the skies of Manhattan, briefing the president on the kidnapping of his daughter, I’ve been on the front lines of some tough situations on the screen,” Gregg said. “I’ve also spent a lot of my life off-screen in New York City, and I know that New York can’t just be protected in the movies. New York needs a mayor like Kathryn Garcia, who will keep our subways and the entire city safe for everyone.”