Coronavirus leaves some calling on Trump to close NYC subways

Ridership has plummeted while robberies on subways have increased by more than 50%

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A New York City community association is calling for President Trump to "intervene in his home city" and suspend subway service for the Big Apple as robberies in transit surge despite a significant decrease in ridership.

Michael Fischer, president of the Central Park South Civic Association, told FOX Business on Friday that Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo “have done absolutely nothing with regard to the homelessness in the subways" as the city continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus.

A subway conductor wears a plastic shield over his face in Queens, New York, on April 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“That has presented a huge danger to the people that are riding the subways. It's a situation where you have medical workers riding the subways...you have the central workers trying to get to their jobs,” Fischer said. “This virus spreads like wildfire… We have a huge number of people that probably caught this virus just by riding the subways alone.”

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A spokesperson for the mayor’s office emphasized on Friday that the subways are run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is controlled by New York State, rather than the city. They are, therefore, outside de Blasio’s control.

Nonetheless, de Blasio has previously emphasized that shutting down the subways could prove to cause a bigger issue for essential and medical workers, who need to travel the most.

A man leaves a quiet 61st Street–Woodside subway station in Queens, New York on April 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“So far, the biggest challenge that would create would be for our frontline, health care workers, first responders, essential workers, I don’t know a truly effective way they could get around,” he said during a recent press conference. “I have trouble understanding any proposal unless we can prove that there’s another way for people to get around that actually works – the people we need the most.”

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FOX Business also contacted Cuomo’s office and the Bowery Residents' Committee, one of New York City’s leading homeless services organizations, seeking comment for this story.

When asked about the critical workers who rely on subway travel, Fischer suggested the city put them up in hotels or provide them with other options.

A man leaves a quiet 61st Street–Woodside subway station in Queens, New York on April 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“What they could have done is put together a plan to either remove those that are using the subway as a shelter... or provide alternate transportation for people to get to work,” he said. “And if they're a little bit inconvenienced, then they're a little bit inconvenienced. But at the same time, people died from this virus and maybe some of these lives could have been saved had some of these people not been riding out the subways.”

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Abbey Collins, the MTA's chief communications officer, called shutting down the subways "a dangerous and dumb idea."

"Transit workers are the heroes moving heroes on the frontlines of this crisis – doctors, nurses, pharmacy and grocery workers, first responders and childcare employees – so they can do their jobs and save lives," Collins said. "This 'civic association' is an out-of-touch Manhattan elite who has fought against working people for years and this shows you exactly whom the four politicians who called for this last week are unsurprisingly aligned with."

This 'civic association' is an out-of-touch Manhattan elite who has fought against working people for years and this shows you exactly whom the four politicians who called for this last week are unsurprisingly aligned with.

- Abbey Collins, MTA's chief communications officer

As of Friday afternoon, at least 271,590 COVID-19 cases were reported in New York State, and at least 16,388 deaths, data shows.

The civic association emphasized the increase in crime despite plummeting ridership numbers. As of early April, subway ridership was down 92 percent compared to a normal weekday.

A woman walks down the stairs at 61st Street–Woodside subway station in Queens, New York on April 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

To keep trains from getting too crowded, the MTA said it sought to keep up normal service on the most-used routes. Police were also ordered to direct people on subway platforms to less crowded sections of trains. Riders were urged to cover their faces and to report situations where social distancing wasn’t being observed.

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The agency posted signs on some trains that read: “Essential Worker, yes, ok to ride. … No — why are you even reading this? Go home.”

On Thursday night, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, the union that represents sergeants from the New York Police Department, tweeted a violent, and apparently recent video that shows two men fighting in what appears to be a crowded subway.

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“While Mayor DeBlasio wants the police to enforce social distance, violence continues on the NYC subways,” the tweet states, in part.

The MTA’s recently released April 2020 report, which provided agency data for the previous month, showed 51 robberies were recorded throughout the subway system, as opposed to 33 in March 2019.

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Burglaries on subways also increased from one incident in March 2019 to two in 2020, and there was one murder this March, as opposed to none the previous year.

Felony assault, grand larceny and rape reports decreased or remained the same.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.