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Pressure mounts from Schumer for Cuomo, MTA to restore 24 hour subway service

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer with Riders Alliance Executive Director Betsy Plum on May 2, 2021 in front the Lexington Avenue - 53rd Street station.
Photo by Mark Hallum

Almost a year since overnight closures on subways due to COVID-19 began in New York City and Senator Charles Schumer is telling Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to end the controversial cleaning measures.

Instituted May 6, 2020 as a means to give stations and trains a deep cleaning – as well as to shuffle homeless people out of the system – the MTA and the governor have been persistent in telling New Yorkers that such cleaning cannot take place with the riding public present.

Schumer, however, was skeptical of this claim stating that they cleaned the system without a closure before and they can do it again.

“Let me just say I understand the duress that the subways were under early on, but now they’re back. The one thing [the MTA will] have to do is hire more workers to clean the trains as the ridership goes up and as the service goes on,” Schumer said. “Through the hard work of our New York delegation, which I lead, we have gotten over $15 billion to the MTA. They can use a little bit of that money to open things up 24/7.”

MTA Chairman Patrick Foye appeared live on 1010 WINS on April 26 and stated that they expect ridership to increase, prompting the need for 24 hour service once again but has not expanded upon what metrics will inform that decision.

“We are looking to bring 24/7 service back as quickly as we can. Obviously as a ridership continues to, ridership in the 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. period is modest, but that ridership will increase,” Foye said. “As it increases as for instance restaurants open, office buildings open as you mentioned, city workers returning in May, and we’re very focused on that and looking forward to bringing that that service back.”

As for homelessness on subways that grabbed headlines early on the pandemic when trains and stations were deserted by much of public, Schumer believes there will be fewer unsheltered people on the streets in the near future, as long as housing vouchers are provided.

“We have gotten $5 billion in the [American Rescue Plan] bill for homeless services and that $5 billion, in addition to vouchers, that is going to help a huge amount in dealing with our homeless problem,” Schumer added. “$10 billion more than the federal government has ever put in to helping the homeless, the way the formula is going to work, New York is going to get a nice big chunk.

Betsy Plum, executive director of Riders Alliance, argued that the continuous overnight closures, first from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., have had a negative impact on essential workers throughout who have been forced to find new ways to get around in the wee hours.

“This week marks a year since the governor halted overnight subway service, that is a decision that has impacted tens of thousands of workers and riders, and now imperils our ability to fully reopen,” Plum said. “As the Senator said, We are the city that never sleeps because we’re supposed to have a subway that never sleeps. We need 24 hours service restored now, we are calling on the governor to do that immediately. This is so that workers don’t have to add three hours to their commute.”

Transport Workers Union Local 100 Train Operations Chair, Zachary Arcidiacono, advocated for the restrictions on subways to be lifted as the limitations on commerce have also eased. He also stated that he hopes for “social solutions and not law and order solutions” to make the system safer after the death of Garrett Goble.

The MTA and the governor’s office did not provide comment to amNewYork before press time; according to Schumer, Cuomo has not told him whether or not he would order the closure to end.

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