De Blasio high on reopening subways as 6.6M New Yorkers are vaccinated

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Mayor Bill de Blasio joins constituents in the subway.
Photo by Dean Moses

Mayor Bill de Blasio celebrated City Hall being “abuzz” for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic on Monday as municipal workers return to work in person.

But questions over the near-term fate of 24-hour service persisted as two-hour closures between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. remain a concern for accommodating the increasing MTA ridership which will likely correspond to the expected July 1 reopening of New York City.

That came a short time before Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the return of a 24-hour subway system in New York City as of May 17.

For the mayor, however, it really boils down to crime and homelessness on subways.

“I think [the shutdown has] been very positive and productive in many ways, but we all knew eventually of course it’ll go back to 24-hour service,” de Blasio said in a morning press conference. “We still want to approach those terminus stations in a smart manner, careful coordination between MTA, NYPD, Department of Homeless Services, and we have definitely found the outreach effort is working. Constantly offering shelter is working, a huge number of folks have come in out of the subways, into shelter and stayed in shelter. It really comes down to a lot of outreach at the right places at the right times.”

While the mayor did not account for the current status of the 500 officers who were surged into the transit system in February following four brutal stabbings which targeted homeless people, he said the presence would be maintained to give New Yorkers a sense of safety as they return.

“NYPD presence remains strong. Again, overall crime in the subway has gone down,” the mayor added. “I agree with you whenever people see an officer it’s reassuring, of course, we’re gonna keep the presence strong, and we’ll keep making adjustments as we go along. But I think the NYPD is doing a great job getting out there and making the impact we need.”

More cops are not, however, the ultimate solution to the problems in the subways, according to the mayor. He encouraged New Yorkers to report incidents in which a person may be experiencing a mental health episode and stated that social workers are better suited to the “nuance” of situations such as those rather than NYPD.

Concern over the state of the subways follows remarks on Sunday by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer who urged Governor Andrew Cuomo and the MTA to end the nightly shutdowns which they claim facilitates cleaning efforts.

Schumer said the agency has enough money through the American Rescue Plan to hire more cleaners and get the job done while remaining open while other elected officials have accused agency leaders of orchestrating a display “hygiene theater” as health authorities have pointed out that chances of getting infected with COVID-19 from a surface are very low.

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