NYC to Stop Subways Early Every Morning for Virus Cleaning


New York will stop subways for four early-morning hours every day to disinfect the trains, under an agreement between the state and city aimed at protecting the essential workers who rely on mass transit.

The plan will begin May 6, affecting about 10,000 riders who use the trains between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., when ridership is at its lowest since the pandemic. It will require a lot of work from multiple agencies, but much of the burden will fall on the city, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday at a press briefing in Albany that Mayor Bill de Blasio joined by video .

The 24-hour subways are the lifeblood of the City That Never Sleeps, and they have only rarely stopped their clattering circulation beneath the streets. The system was shut down for hurricanes Irene and Sandy in 2011 and 2012 and a blizzard in 2015.

The agreement to pause them for the pandemic is a rare moment of comity for Cuomo and de Blasio, who often are at odds and have sparred recently over train stoppages and sanitation. The two last appeared together at the start of the virus spread, in early March.

“The mayor is really stepping up to the plate here,” Cuomo said. The mayor returned the praise.

New York is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with more than 300,000 cases as of April 29. Subway ridership is down 92% under Cuomo’s stay-at-home order. Earlier this week, Cuomo said that the subways were “disgusting” and that the apparent increase in homeless people occupying cars was disrespectful to essential workers.

Essential workers coming to and from jobs during the dead time will be provided with free buses, for-hire-vehicles or so-called dollar vans through an “Essential Connector” program, the governor said.

Read More: Virus Galvanizes LA to House Homeless After Expensive Failures

The MTA runs subway operations, while the city’s police department and other agencies are responsible for crime control, safety and issues such as homelessness and public health. State officials had criticized de Blasio for not doing enough to clear the subways of the homeless. Earlier this week, the mayor had proposed closing 10 stations from midnight to 5 a.m.

Before the agreement, the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority was cleaning buses and trains every 72 hours, but the virus can live for hours or even days on surfaces, the governor said. Trains and buses should be disinfected every 24 hours, to protect essential workers who rely on mass transit, Cuomo said.

The task is unprecedented, he said, “but that is the right thing to do.”

The plan also will help the homeless, de Blasio said. They will no longer be sleeping on the trains at night, so they’ll have to come above ground, where outreach workers and trained NYPD officers will be waiting to help them find shelter, he said.

De Blasio said they owe it to the essential workers to embark on the cleaning plan.

“It makes sense when it comes to protecting our heroes,” he said. “We’re going to find a way to make our subway system cleaner than it’s probably ever been in its history, honestly.”


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