MTA’s chief wants police to be better at wearing face masks, the transit bigwig said during a public meeting Thursday.
“We’re keeping to push the message out,” said acting Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber during a public Sept. 9 meeting of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee (PCAC). “I would like it if the police themselves were a little better.”
The PCAC, which is the MTA’s rider advocacy group, held the meeting in a hybrid format, virtually via Zoom and in-person at MTA headquarters at 2 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. The acting mass transit leader prefaced his comments at the public gathering as being “off the record” — an agreement that requires consent by all parties — noting he didn’t want to ruffle NYPD’s feathers.
“I’m dealing with it, we have to deal with it in an appropriate manner — can’t just, you know, get into another huge fight with the NYPD,” he said.
Senior MTA spokesman Tim Minton said there was an agreement “by those in the room” with reporters about the off-the-record nature of his statements. However, no agreement was given by participants tuning in via Zoom, including amNewYork Metro.
The meeting’s recording is also slated to be uploaded to YouTube in the future, according to the PCAC.
“Janno Lieber made a comment that was agreed by those in the room to be off the record about his hope that police officers will join him in wearing masks while in the transit system,” Minton said in a statement. “Of course, as he’s said publicly many times, he expects MTAPD officers, NYC Transit workers and railroad employees to wear masks as required while on duty in public areas, and appreciates our NYPD partners doing what they can to help keep New Yorkers safe.”
The statements come weeks after another senior MTA official, New York City Transit Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer, pleaded with enforcement officers in the city to wear masks, including the MTA’s own Police Department.
“We’re going to continue to work with our partners and ask our friends at MTA PD, NYPD and other enforcement agencies to please wear their masks in the system,” said Meyer at a July 19 committee meeting. “There’s nothing more important from my perspective than seeing that happen.”
Riders have documented police officers repeatedly not wearing masks or wearing them incorrectly in the subways, including one cop in Queens who taunted a straphanger for pointing it out.
MTA follows federal guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that mandates people wear masks while riding public transit, and cops can fine New Yorkers without face coverings $50.
“We expect our officers to comply with the requirement that masks are worn while on trains and in the Transit system,” said NYPD spokesperson Sergeant Edward Riley in a statement.
Riders overall have been complying with the mask mandates on subways and buses, with Lieber attributing the success to the omnipresent MTA ad campaigns.
“Those yellow campaigns were great, our ‘how to wear a mask’ campaigns were great, and it really shows the MTA can do effective marketing,” Lieber said. “Let’s give people credit. People are complying, it’s been a long time, being respectful of each other, most of the time, and we just need to get through this and encourage people to comply as much as possible.”
Most recent MTA stats show mask compliance among subway riders was 87% between Aug. 23–Sept. 3 and 93% on the buses from Aug. 9–20. The figures have been trending back up on both modes of transit after a slight dip during June and July.
In August, the number of riders ejected from trains or stations sank to the lowest level in almost a year, and officers doled out zero fines for violations, The City recently reported.