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MTA officials honored for bravery on the L line

November 30, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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MTA officials on Tuesday honored subway conductor Mandy Harford and train operator Tamika Waller, whose actions during a service disruption on the L line between Brooklyn and Manhattan were exemplary.

Waller first spotted an unauthorized person on the tracks at the First Avenue station in Manhattan, likely saving the person’s life. The incident delayed Harford’s train for an hour, inconveniencing riders from North Williamsburg and Bushwick for whom the L train provides the main access to Manhattan.

Video of the incident taken onboard the train on Nov. 23 was posted online and captured Harford’s exceptional communication with customers. Throughout the entire incident, Harford walked through train cars assuring customers police had been notified, and they would be on the move as soon as possible.

L train ridership in Brooklyn has been skyrocketing during the last 10 years or so, especially in areas with residential development. The line’s busiest station in Brooklyn is Bedford Avenue, just across the East River from First Avenue, but a recent survey showed that the largest percentage increase occurred in Bushwick, at Bushwick Avenue-Aberdeen Street, Wilson Avenue and Jefferson Street (9.3 percent).

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NYC Transit Interim President Craig Cipriano and MTA Chief Customer Officer Sarah Meyer joined Harford and Waller at the First Avenue station to present them with a commendation for their exceptional communication skills during the disruption.

“What’s going on?” in the words of the old song, was what passengers on this L train were wondering when their train was stuck in the tunnel after an unauthorized man was seen on the tracks. YouTube photo courtesy of MTA

“Transit workers step up to the plate every day with actions like this that sometimes go unnoticed, and at times, even taken for granted,” said Interim President Cipriano. “Both Mandy and Tamika followed their training while also going above and beyond to make sure the customers onboard were informed. Their actions are emblematic of the NYC Transit workforce, who are always ready for any situation thrown their way.”

“Strong communication is an important factor in making people feel safe,” said Chief Customer Officer Meyer. “Service disruptions can be a stressful experience, but Mandy reduced any worry by walking through the train, explaining what was going on and letting them know that they were in this together. This is a shining example of the New York spirit, and the way MTA employees are ready for anything at a moment’s notice.”

“I wanted to make my presence feel more personal than professional. I wanted the passengers to know they were not alone,” Harford said. “People can get anxious when their train is stopped, and I thought, if my loved ones were on this train, they would want the person-to-person communication to make them feel safe.”

“I just did my job. I saw the passenger on the catwalk, and I immediately stopped, but he kept walking. I called it in like I was supposed to. And I really think Mandy did the most,” Waller said. “I kept an eye on him, he somehow got out of our sight, winded up onto the next track, which was Mandy’s train. I was able to tell the cops where he was, what he looked like.”

The disruption began at 8:38 p.m. when Waller reported a person on the tracks near the First Avenue station in Manhattan to the Rail Control Center (RCC). Waller provided the description of the person to the RCC, which then requested Manhattan trains hold where they were. Shortly thereafter, the train operator of Harford’s train spotted the person on her side of the tracks.

Power was then removed between Eighth Avenue and First Avenue so that police could respond to the incident. Simultaneously, the RCC instructed the train crew to try and get the person to board the train.

Harford and the train operator made attempts in vain. The person began to move towards the back of the train, where Harford and the operator lost sight of the person. But the passengers in the last train car saw the person run towards the First Ave. platform and out of the station.

Service resumed at 9:43 p.m., with Harford’s train continuing towards the Eighth Avenue terminal.

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