New York straphangers will once again be able to surf the subway system around the clock beginning on May 17, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to reopen 24/7 service as part of a regional reopening plan.
The controversial overnight shutdown from 2 am to 4 am was ostensibly to “clean” the subway system, although many transit advocates argued that train cars could be cleaned while open to the public. Adding to their ire, MTA officials still kept the subway cars moving on a normal schedule, but stations were simply closed to ordinary New Yorkers.
Now, though, with 7 million New Yorkers across the state getting vaccinated, MTA officials will once agains restore overnight service to the largest subway system in America.
Gov. Cuomo hailed the overnight closure as an effective way of removing homeless people from the subways, saying the unhoused population was efficiently transferred to “supportive services” at the end of each night.
“I can’t tell you how many New Yorkers say to me, there were fewer homeless, who are now on the trains because when they closed in the evening for a couple of hours at night. They did the cleaning and they refer the homeless to supportive services which is what they needed in the first place,” Cuomo said.
“Nobody wants the MTA to now go back to the old days. So I told the MTA — for my two cents — 24-hour service, yes, but trains must remain clean and we have to help the homeless, and we can’t go backwards on the quality of service,” he added.
Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents up to 40,000 MTA employees, had some concerns about the resumption of the New York City staple of overnight mass transit service.
“Felony assaults are up 42 percent this year compared to three years ago – when there were three million more people using the subway every day,” Local 100 President Tony Utano said. “Restoring 24-hour subway service is a great idea, but the city has to add more mental health services, homeless outreach, and uniformed police officers to the system. Too many transit workers and riders are being harassed and assaulted right now with the current hours of operation.”
Cuomo also attempted to reconcile the possibly false pretense of cleaning surfaces when the scientific community has known for months COVID-19 does not spread via surfaces by explaining that the effort instituted under his direction made people feel better about riding while giving homeless New Yorkers options between the streets and shelter.
“Riders organized and won back 24/7 subway service. After more than a year of punishing overnight commutes that impacted tens of thousands of essential workers, New Yorkers will see a long-overdue return to a crucial part of normalcy,” Riders Alliance Executive Director Betsy Plum said. “New York is a 24/7 city because of our subway. The restoration of 24/7 service is a victory not only for the city’s reopening but for New Yorkers’ determination to hold our public officials accountable.”
This story first appeared on amNewYork.