Pols, transit advocates demand answers after recent subway nightmare
In the wake of a massive electrical power outage at DeKalb Avenue that snarled several subway lines and stalled tens of thousands of riders from getting to work on time, elected officials and transit advocates are demanding action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
On May 9, a Con Edison power outage that took place at around 9 a.m. caused signal disruptions on the B, D, N, Q, and R lines, leaving tens of thousands of passengers who rely on those trains stranded.
Hundreds of passengers could be seen milling around both inside and outside the subway stations with no way to get where they were going.
The MTA scrambled to move the affected trains on alternative lines.
The mishap was similar to an electrical malfunction at De Kalb Avenue that took place two days earlier, on May 7.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who called the May 9 incident “a miserable snarl” for riders, said it’s time for Cuomo and the MTA to do something.
“After the second incident at the DeKalb Avenue subway station in just three days, throwing the commutes of tens of thousands of New Yorkers into a miserable snarl, it is time for the governor’s office and the MTA to prove how seriously the state takes the impact that an underfunded and outdated transit system has had on straphangers’ daily lives as well as our local and statewide economies,” Adams said in a statement.
Adams called on the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) to conduct an economic impact analysis of the subway outages and to include in the study any lost economic productivity of workers, the impact to business and lost tax revenue.
“Tax revenue is directly correlated with the strength of our city’s economy, of which the transit system is the lifeblood,” Adams stated.
The Riders Alliance, a leading transit advocacy group, held a protest outside Cuomo’s office in midtown Manhattan on May 11.
“Subway riders leave for work these days not knowing if or when they will actually get there. Any one incident can be explained, but in the aggregate it’s clear that subway service is deteriorating and that riders are increasingly miserable. There’s no way to fix this without the governor’s leadership, and where is the governor?” Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin said in a statement.
The governor’s press secretary Dani Lever said in a statement published by patch.com that the previous leaders ignored the problems in the transit system and that Cuomo is determined to address the situation.
“For decades the MTA was ignored by leaders in state government and that era ended under Gov. Cuomo, who secured record and unprecedented investment in the MTA that will fix problems that have persisted for generations,” Lever stated. “Advocates advocate, and we’ll leave the performance art to them. We’re focused on real solutions.”
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook) demanded that the MTA and Con Ed offer a briefing to Sunset Park residents and people living in nearby communities to discuss the causes of the electrical problems and offer a timeline for repairs.
The combined effects of power outages, and multiple repair and reconstruction projects on the same lines have been accompanied by serious lapses in communication and confusing service change notices, according to Menchaca, who noted that two stations on the R line — Bay Ridge Avenue and 53rd Street — are closed for repairs, a factor that only adds fuel to the fire of service disruptions.
The subway problems have also become a topic in the race for the City Council seat representing Bay Ridge.
Democrat Justin Brannan charged that the MTA is too focused on cosmetics. “Our subway system is over 100 years old. We need real infrastructure upgrades. Instead the MTA gives us Wi-Fi. This does little to help all those stranded R, N and D train riders, except to let them check just how delayed their trains are,” Brannan told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Brannan said that while he doesn’t dispute the value of amenities like Wi-Fi, he believes that “we really need to take a good hard look what kind of services the MTA is and isn’t providing us for all the tax dollars and fares we pay.”
The MTA did not respond to requests for comment.
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