Where in the world is Gov. Andrew Cuomo? That was the question on the minds of many New Yorkers Tuesday following a subway train derailment in Harlem that injured 39 people and caused service disruptions across several lines.
Cuomo’s public schedule said he was in the city at 9 a.m. A spokeswoman confirmed he was in the city in the morning, but declined to say exactly what time he left for Albany, or whether he was in the city at the time of the derailment, which city officials said happened at 9:45 a.m.
The governor didn’t offer any kind of response to the incident – no on-scene news conference, no emailed statement, not even a tweet – until much later in the day.
Although many in the city correlate problems on the subway with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, the MTA is actually a state-run agency under Cuomo’s management. The agency has continuously struggled to keep up with repairs to the 113-year-old transit system’s infrastructure and it has taken a toll on commuters.
New Yorkers who are frustrated with the MTA’s increasing service disruptions – and now a derailment – took to Twitter Tuesday to express outrage at the governor.
“Cuomo only wants New Yorkers to die in the dark underground from train crashes,” Wally E. Brennan said in a retweet from Cuomo’s Twitter account on the Senate health care bill.
“Everyone: Fix the subway. Gov Cuomo: We hear you! Our new ‘Limo Lane’ helps real New Yorkers get driven to their Connecticut homes faster,” Jason O. Gilbert tweeted.
In a statement emailed to amNewYork just after 6 p.m., Cuomo called the derailment “an unacceptable manifestation of the system’s current state” but also hailed the return of MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, who he said will turn things around.
“New Yorkers deserve better. We are grateful to the first responders for their able assistance,” the statement said. “It is my expectation that with new leadership brought by Joe Lhota, the MTA will address the fundamental issues plaguing the transit system and overhaul the organizational structure of the MTA. As I have told Joe, any support the MTA needs to get through this crisis, will be provided.”
Although de Blasio has no direct control over the MTA, he was also relatively quiet on a matter that impacted many New Yorkers. Nearly two hours after the derailment, the mayor’s office Twitter account said de Blasio was “briefed” on the situation.
“Mayor de Blasio was briefed on this morning’s subway derailment at 125th St and is monitoring the situation. The FDNY and NYPD are on scene,” the NYC Mayor’s Office tweeted.
Austin Finan, spokesman for the mayor, later said de Blasio has been in touch with Lhota, but failed to offer any further information.
“The mayor has been briefed on the train derailment and spoken with MTA Chairman Lhota,” Finan said in an emailed statement. “Emergency personnel, including [FDNY] Commissioner [Daniel] Nigro, were dispatched to the scene immediately. We’ll continue to monitor the situation as the investigation continues.”
Meanwhile, the Riders Alliance issued a statement demanding to know why Cuomo is failing New York commuters.
“As the subway crumbles from decades of neglect, Governor Cuomo continues to point fingers instead of coming up with a credible plan to fix the MTA,” the Riders Alliance said in a statement.
“Incidents like this will keep happening until Governor Cuomo takes charge with a plan to fix a failing transit system. What will it take for the governor to stop making excuses and start funding public transit?”
City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chairman of the council’s Transportation Committee, is now demanding a “line-by-line audit” of the MTA’s allocations for track work.
“This is a breaking point. Enough is enough,” he said during a news conference near the derailment site Tuesday.
The Straphangers Campaign issued a similarly scathing statement against Cuomo, calling the subway a “daily nightmare” for commuters.
“Today’s A train derailment was a dangerous and stark reminder that New York City’s transit system is nearing a breaking point, and that the issues plaguing this system won’t resolve themselves on their own,” the organization said in a statement. “Our transit system needs adequate and stable funding from both the city and state, dynamic solutions brought forth by the MTA, and chutzpah from Governor Cuomo to lead the city out of this transit crisis.”
The Riders Alliance, Straphangers Campaign and a number of other transit advocates announced plans for a “rush hour rally” outside of Cuomo’s Manhattan office Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. to demand the governor provide plans to “fund and fix” the subway.
Cuomo has been visibly involved in a number of major train incidents over the years. Most recently, he canceled a trip to Israel in September 2016 to attend a joint news conference with Gov. Chris Christie within hours of the deadly Hoboken train crash in New Jersey.