Additional reporting by Gabriel Sandoval
Governor Andrew Cuomo declared Tuesday that straphangers have a right to a “safe, clean, comfortable environment” in the subway — even amid a spike in complaints about “soiled” train cars.
He cited a Monday story in THE CITY that revealed a jump in reports of filthy subway cars since 2017, worsening commutes even as other performance measures have improved.
“The trains are running better — good news,” Cuomo said during a news conference in Manhattan. “Bad news — quality of life, which is symptomatic of what’s happening in the city — is now in the subways and presenting concentrated problems in the subway.”
The governor said the MTA — which he controls — has to “come to scale on the response” to combat a problem that’s delayed trains, forced some to be taken out of service and has made for unpleasant commutes.
Or, as Shawn Evans, 33, a No. 2 train rider from Brooklyn, put it: “Before you sit down, it’s always good to look.”
The MTA logged 1,623 reports of soiled cars in the first eight months of this year. That’s already higher than the 1,504 reported in all of 2017, and is on pace to top the 2,058 complaints from last year.
The agency has said the increase may be due to improved “accuracy in reporting and coding these types of events.”
As THE CITY reported Tuesday, the MTA also has cut back on car cleaner positions at some subway terminals, including during overnight hours.
Commuters ‘Have Rights, Too’
Cuomo pointed to what he called “aggressive panhandling,” an increase in assaults against transit workers and fare evasion as factors contributing to commuter misery.
“A rider has a right not to be harassed, not to be threatened, not to be subjected to intolerable conditions,” Cuomo said. “They pay their fares, they have rights, too.”
Earlier this summer, Cuomo ordered the MTA board to devise a plan to get the homeless out of trains and stations and into housing.
On Tuesday, he told reporters: “When you have homeless people in the streets, it’s one situation. When they are in a train car, that’s a different situation.”
Advocates for the homeless noted out that not all soiled subway car incidents can be pinned on those who use trains for shelter — and called on Cuomo to increase housing for the homeless.
“What the governor needs to do is invest in actual solutions to homelessness,” said Giselle Routhier, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless. “This is not a new problem and we know what works: supportive housing and affordable housing.”