Mayor de Blasio calls for 24-hour service to resume on subways before July 1

Cleaners were in every nook and cranny of the Q train on May 6 at the outset of the new program to close subways from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement on Thursday that New York City was on track to reopen fully by July 1 came questions of whether or not he would push for Governor Andrew Cuomo to order the return of 24-hour service on subways.

May 6 will mark a year since the pandemic pushed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to the decision that in order to protect their workforce from the perils of COVID-19 in the transit system, they would need to shut down for four hours for intensive cleaning.

In proceeding months, MTA leaders would be accused of “hygiene theater” as it became better established by the scientific community that the chances of contracting the disease from surfaces were essentially minuscule.

“I think July 1 is the right time. I think the cleanup effort has been outstanding. This is an area where the City and State have been in agreement,” de Blasio said in Thursday press briefing. “It clearly helped us. In fact, one of the things the City pushed hard was for the State to realize that the right kind of closures could help us address homelessness more productively. And it has, you know, many, many homeless folks out of the subways into shelter and they stayed in shelter and that’s credit to everyone at the Department of Homeless Services, all the outreach workers.”

While the mayor may feel the outreach to homeless New Yorkers coming of subways and stations as the 1 a.m. closures began was helpful for addressing the city’s almost perennial homeless crisis, however, Coalition for the Homeless released a study on Wednesday that called the administration’s effort to address the problem from a public health perspective less than successful.

Nonetheless, transit advocates at the Riders Alliance supported the mayor’s call for 24-hour service to be restored for the benefit it will bring to service industry workers as the curfews on bars and restaurants will be lifting in May.

“The time for the governor to reopen the subway is now. Overnight closures have stranded many essential workers for nearly a year. The end of bar and restaurant curfews mean many more workers now need to commute overnight,” Riders Alliance Policy Director Danny Pearlstein said. “While the mayor is right that New York cannot fully reopen without 24/7 subways, many thousands of New Yorkers are already hard at work at all hours. The governor should reopen the subway now to better serve them and lead the way for even more riders.”

In a Q&A with reporters following de Blasio’s announcement for a July 1 reopening, Governor Cuomo said that he would like to see swifter progress than that while adding that the process was governed by a “statewide management system” and that to make such predictions was “irresponsible.”

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