NEW YORK — The war of words between the MTA and the city appears to be escalating.
At a press conference Thursday, MTA Interim President Sarah Feinberg called out Mayor Bill de Blasio for telling New Yorkers it’s safe to ride the subway when, she says, that’s simply not the whole story as attacks are happening “day in and day out.”
Feinberg, TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano and MTA Chairman Patrick Foye spoke at a press conference after Gerald Sykes, an off-duty train conductor, needed two surgeries from being slashed in the face in the subway system Wednesday night.
“This tragic incident underlines once again the critical need for engaged police presence in our system as the city returns from COVID-19,” Foye said, adding that people “won’t come back to transit” if they don’t and accused the city of “defunding” they NYPD in the subway.
There was another attack on a transit worker at the 238th Street station stop in the Bronx. A worker was kicked in the head and knocked out, according to TWU Local 100. While he’s already been released in hospital, that’s not the case for Sykes.
Subway crime continues to be a worry for the MTA, especially as 24-hour service resumes soon. NYC Transit says it has been asking for additional officers and mental health resources for months.
Mayor de Blasio’s Deputy Press Secretary Mitch Schwartz told PIX11 News in a statement that the MTA is not telling the truth.
“The MTA isn’t just fearmongering anymore; they’re actively lying to New Yorkers about public safety,” Schwartz said. “The transit force is thousands strong – hundreds of additional officers have surged to the areas that need it most. It’s truly outrageous to lie to discourage people from using the subways, and it’s time for the MTA and the governor to stop publicly rooting against New York City’s economic recovery.”
Schwartz said that there are currently over 2,400 officers serving in transit, with around 500 surged “to areas that need it most.” There was some confusion over whether Mayor de Blasio had said at his Thursday press conference that there had been officers removed from the system, though he never directly said that and Feinberg said that if that were the case, it was news to them.
The NYPD released a statement confirming de Blasio misspoke this morning when he suggested additional officers that were surged into the subway system following fatal stabbings in February had been taken out.
“We appreciate the NYPD’s clarification that those officers remain every day — and would like to know the actual number of officers patrolling the system on a regular basis,” said MTA spokesperson Tim Minton in a statement.
The NYPD released a report Wednesday that said crime had increased 30% in April 2021, compared to the same month in 2020, but that crime was actually down about 10% in the transit system.
Feinberg believes that’s akin to pretending there’s no problem.
“That is just not sharing the full story,” she said. “The story is that where ridership is, crime should be lower. Of course, the system is safe for the vast majority of people using the system but it is not currently safe for all of our transit workers and it is not as safe as it could be.”
TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano, who spoke at the press conference earlier Thursday, said that he just wants a safe environment for workers in response to Schwartz’s statement.
“Transit workers aren’t rooting for anything,” Utano said in a statement. “They’re too busy bleeding, wiping the spit off their faces and worrying if they will make it home in one piece. If anyone is lying it’s the mayor.”
He added that felony assaults against riders and workers were up more than 40% January through April compared to 2018 numbers, when the subway was servicing 3.5 million more riders per day.