New York City Mayor
Bill de Blasio
says that crime on the subway is low, but his office is still launching a travel-buddy program for government employees who feel unsafe commuting to work.
The city announced the program in an April 30 email to employees ahead of an estimated 80,000 government workers returning on a rotating schedule to their offices this month. Most municipal offices had been closed over the past year because of Covid-19 lockdown measures.
Returning employees have the option of signing up to be matched as travel partners with another worker in their neighborhood, according to the email, which The Wall Street Journal reviewed. A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio said it was too soon to say how many employees signed up for the program.
“Our mission is to make New York City safer for everyone; that’s why we have transit officers and mental health teams in the subway system, and that’s why we’re spearheading this effort to make our colleagues feel comfortable after a year away from the office,” the spokesman, Mitch Schwartz, said in a statement.
Officials at the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s subway, have spent months calling for more police officers in the system.
They say the rate of crimes and misdemeanors on a per rider basis is worse than before the Covid-19 pandemic. And they cite an authority survey that found that many commuters won’t return to the system because they fear crime and harassment.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, said in a radio interview Friday that the MTA, at the behest of New York Gov.
was “fear mongering” over subway safety.
“I’ve ridden the subways. So, many folks in my life ride the subways all the time,” he said. “They’re overwhelmingly safe.”
“Rather than being glib about an issue vital to the recovery of the city, the mayor should listen to his own employees who have said loud and clear they want additional police officers in the subway system—and are resorting to the buddy system to get home safely while they wait for him to finally take action,” said Tim Minton, a spokesman for the MTA.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has said the public perception of the subway is that it isn’t safe, and more needs to be done to bring back riders.
A spokesman for the governor said it seemed at odds that the de Blasio administration was offering a commuter-safety program to workers while the mayor said the subway was safe.
“You’re telling me the city’s left hand doesn’t know what it’s right hand is doing? In that administration? No way!” the spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, said in an email.
The MTA vowed last month to add more security cameras through the city’s subway and two regional commuter-rail systems to help combat crime and help riders feel safer.
State officials have said crime and harassment are dissuading riders from returning to public transportation since the pandemic began and have asked for 1,000 police officers in addition to the 3,000 officers who currently patrol the subway.
The NYPD on Friday announced they would add more auxiliary police officers to the 20 busiest subway stations.
“The addition of these officers is a good step forward—but make no mistake more needs to be done to ensure the system comes back, and in turn the city comes back,”
the interim head of the MTA’s subway and bus division, said in a statement.
—Paul Berger contributed to this article.
Write to Katie Honan at Katie.Honan@wsj.com
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Source: WSJ – US News