Subway safety essential for NYC comeback — officials say

by Abdulhaqq Obisesan Oladimeji
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The Big Apple’s skyrocketing crime rate may stymie its attempt to claw back economically from the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders said Sunday — as they underscored the importance of subway safety.

Partnership for New York City President Kathy Wylde told host John Catsimatidis of WABC 770’s “The Cats Roundtable” that helping commuters feel safe is vital to bringing white-collar workers back to work — a point echoed later on the show by MTA Chairman Janno Lieber.

“People are absolutely outraged that we’ve allowed our city to deteriorate to the point that we have,” said Wylde, who heads the city’s main business group. “It’s not just gun violence. We’re talking about just a general deterioration in the feeling that we are safe walking the streets, riding the subways, safe from disease and safe from harassment, from assault and and worse.”

Wylde then took aim at the state’s lawmakers and recent criminal justice reforms that have let many repeat offenders walk free — including Frank Abrowka, the sicko charged with smearing his own feces on a straphanger’s face last month.

“We seem to have made some mistakes, both in legislation and an implementation on some of these policies,” she said — specifically calling on the state Legislature to change discovery laws that many prosecutors claim make it prohibitively difficult to try cases.

“Nowhere is the situation more serious than in mass transit in our subway.”

She continued, “We don’t want people going to jail because they’re poor and can’t pay bail. We don’t want people going to jail because they’re sick and need mental health treatment. But we want people to behave themselves.”

In a separate interview, Lieber said riders are concerned about safety in general — as well as fare beaters and the presence of mentally ill people underground.

“I am not a criminal justice expert, and I’m not here to lobby for any particular law. All I can do is speak for the riders, which is that they want to see the rule about paying fares enforced,” Lieber said. “The vast majority of people who pay the fare have to feel like it’s a fair system, and they’re not suckers because they pay. They got to see that the rules are being enforced, and I’m counting on the city and the NYPD to do just that.”

New York City has struggled with a recent surge in subway attacks, including the January murder of Michelle Go, who was shoved in front of an oncoming train in Times Square. Martial Simon, a homeless man with a history of mental illness, has been charged in her death.

“We just cannot accept a situation where riders are being attacked, or even just made to feel really vulnerable in New York City subways,” Lieber told Catsimatidis. “It’s essential to our economic recovery that people feel comfortable riding the system.”

Wylde, meanwhile, struck a positive note as New York reemerges from the spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant, saying the Big Apple’s comeback “is real this time.”

“We’ve had a couple of false starts,” she said. “It looks like by the end of March, we’ll have at least 50 percent of the office workers back in the office every day, and we’ll continue to build from there.”

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