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Subways to resume 24-hour service; riders, workers worry about crime – FOX 5 NY

After more than a year, New York City subways will finally return to around-the-clock service on May 17, 2021, the governor announced on Monday during his coronavirus briefing. 

Subway ridership plummeted 90% after the rise of the coronavirus pandemic. The MTA suspended around-the-clock subway service on April 30, 2020, in order to facilitate deep cleaning of the trains and the clearing of homeless people from the trains and stations. The overnight closure ran from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. until February of this year when it was shortened to two hours, from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

In recent months, riders have been returning as more New Yorkers get vaccinated and business restrictions have eased. On April 8, ridership topped 2 million for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged one challenge remains: safety on the subways in the wake of a spike in certain crimes.

“Have you been on the subway? ‘Cause I have and I was scared,” Cuomo said, describing how many subway riders are feeling.

The subway system definitely has an image problem to contend with since the start of the pandemic. The mayor’s office and NYPD said that overall crime is down on the subway. 

“The mayor has a very unorthodox definition of the word safe if he thinks it’s safe right now,” Pete Donohue, a spokesman for the Transit Workers Union Local 100, said. “It is as bad as it seems.”

A subway at the Queensboro Plaza station in Long Island City, Queens. (Photo courtesy of MTA NYC Transit)

MTA workers do not feel safe, he said, and say they are being assaulted or harassed on a daily basis.

“There is a station agent who had to flee her booth because a maniac was bashing it in with a concrete block,” Donohue said.

The MTA pointed out that major felonies and misdemeanors per 1 million riders is up 53% so far this year compared to 2019. The MTA’s recent rider survey found that 87% say they are most concerned about crime and harassment.

“Here is the reality — it is a safe system but crime is at levels it shouldn’t be,” NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg said.

She has been calling for more NYPD officers in the subway for months.

In addition to more police officers, many believe more mental health services are needed.

“They need to start to think about what do you do with individuals who can’t take care of themselves and appear to be a threat to others or themselves,” Donohue said.

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