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Will mayor’s goal of 24 hour subway happen by July 1?

Coney Island is a major site for trains’ cleanup

April 30, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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As part of his overall announcement on Thursday that he hopes New York City will “fully reopen” by July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio called for 24-hour subway service once again.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, not the mayor, controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and has the power to restore 24-hour service on the subways, which are now closed from 2 to 4 a.m. Still, De Blasio said he believes July 1 is “the right time” to bring 24-hour subway service back.

Commenting on the mayor’s statement, Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director of the Riders Alliance, said, “The time for the governor to reopen the subway is now. Overnight closures have stranded many essential workers for nearly a year. The end of bar and restaurant curfews mean many more workers now need to commute overnight. 

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“While the mayor is right that New York cannot fully reopen without 24/7 subways, many thousands of New Yorkers are already hard at work at all hours. The governor should reopen the subway now to better serve them and lead the way for even more riders,” he said.

The nighttime shutdown of the subway system was instituted in the early days of the COVID pandemic, at a time when people were encouraged to stay home except when they were essential workers. Subway ridership plummeted 90 percent, and among the most visible riders were homeless people — many of whom did not wear masks.

This nighttime shutdown, at that time between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., was announced in early May. The early-morning hours, when the trains weren’t running, were and still are dedicated to deep-cleaning and disinfecting the trains. 

Much of the cleaning took place at Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue because of that station’s status as a terminal for four subway lines, and possibly because the Coney Island maintenance yards, the largest in the subway system, are nearby.

To make up for the reduced subway hours, the MTA increased early-morning bus service. Transit agency personnel also tried, with limited success, to encourage the homeless to go to city shelters. Soon, the MTA made some buses available for homeless people to sleep in, including at Coney Island. 

Beginning on Feb. 22 of this year, the four-hour shutdown was reduced to two hours. 

MTA CEO Patrick Foye said at the time that “the deployment of the vaccine, a drop in the infection rate, the resumption of indoor dining, extended hours for bars and restaurants and the reopening of stadia and arena” made an adjustment in subway hours possible.

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