Question: I'm a doctor. I direct a medical clinic in Downtown Brooklyn and every single member of my medical staff and clinical staff – a total of 14 people – use the subway system to get to work. And also, many of my patients, the ones who can't be seen by video, have told me about intolerable overcrowding on the subway platforms while waiting for long periods of time for the trains, which are routinely packed with passengers as well as containing homeless people who are lying down on the benches occupying multiple seats. This makes your mandate to observe social distancing impossible, Mr. Mayor, and endangers my staff of essential workers and often medically impaired patients of advanced age – makes social distancing impossible.
Lehrer: Mr. Mayor, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that we've been getting calls like this. I'm sure you've been getting reports like this with the subways running as infrequently as they are now largely because of staff shortages, because of subway workers out sick. The subways are actually not a good place to do social distancing and these are the people who have to go to work or are sick.
Mayor: It's very, very painful to hear. I don't think we're getting the whole truth on this one. I'm very frustrated by this because I spoke to the head of the MTA, Pat Foye, after the show last week when these issues came up as well. He affirmed to me that this was a very limited problem. I don't understand how we can say that when I have all through the week heard these reports. The MTA is run by the State of New York. I'm going to immediately go back to Pat Foye, to the State, and ask them how on earth if people are experiencing this, how come it's not being more clearly acknowledged so we can act on it together?
Lehrer: And what could be done?
Mayor: Well, if the frequency of the trains is a problem, is there anything that could be done? Is there any way to run more trains where they are needed? It may not, of course, be everywhere. It may be certain times a day or certain lines, but if that is what's going to protect people, we should do that. If the trains can't be run, can we run buses on those lines as an alternative? Again, I don't run the MTA, I can't speak for them, but I can say that the solutions to me would be either more trains in the right places or more personnel to avoid the overcrowding and make sure people are spread out, or more buses. Now, I've told the NYPD I want them to be a part of the solution, too. This is the part of the equation I do have control, that the NYPD needs to be where there are problems. For example, I know there were certain stations in the Bronx, 149th Street, as an example, where there were specific problems and my instruction to Commissioner Shea was send the NYPD in to make sure there is not overcrowding on the trains or the platform. Spread people out, tell people, don't get on that train yet, hold people from getting into the station if the station's too crowded – the kinds of things that can be done if there's leadership and supervision on site.
The homeless piece is very real, too, and we have sent out our outreach workers even in the midst of all this to try and get homeless folks to come into shelter, and some have, but there's some that, unfortunately, because of mental health and other reasons, are very, very resistant. But you have to have enough space, for example, on the subways, really clear limits to how many people can be in each train. So, that has not been done yet. I think to do it more clearly, that there should be no more than whatever it is – 20 people or whatever it is – is the right number on a subway car that allows proper distancing. I'll talk to the MTA about making that standard clear and more public, because I think it's got to be abided.
Back to COVID-19: NYC Resources
This page © 2020 Barry Drogin