New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg appeared on FOX 5 Good Day New York with Rosanna Scotto and Lori Stokes to discuss the return to 24/7 subway service, the agency’s COVID safety measures, and how transit will continue to power the region’s post-pandemic recovery.
A transcript of the interview appears below.
Lori Stokes: Well New York can once again call itself the city that never sleeps. For the first time in more than a year, the subways are now running all day and all night. Wow, it's a bit of a problem. We don't know what's going to happen but it's happening. Right now, Sarah Feinberg, who is the Interim President of the Transit Authority is with us this morning. Nice to have you back on Good Day New York. Everybody's excited we're back to being the city that never sleeps, but is it safe?
Sarah Feinberg: Good morning.
Lori Stokes, Rosanna Scotto: Good morning.
Sarah Feinberg: Yeah, good morning. I know it's good to be running 24/7 service again. New York is back. So, it's a good day for us. So, to your question about whether it's safe. Look, it's safe. It's not as safe as it could be. I'm going to continue to advocate for more policing resources and for everything I need to make sure I'm responsive to my customers and to my workforce. But look, as I said the other day, you know the subway is still the most efficient and the best and the cleanest way to get from one part of New York to the other, and the safest. I'd rather be in the subway any day than, then put myself or, or my daughter in a car.
Rosanna Scotto: Okay, so let's, let's just talk about this. You know, the mayor says he's adding 500 more police officers. Over the weekend, I lost count how many slashings, biting, punching’s took place on the subway. Do you have an accounting of this?
Feinberg: Too many, that's for sure. Too many. I mean look, you're right. So, the Mayor has said he's, he's put additional resources in. You know, I talk to Commissioner Shea all the time, he's incredibly responsive he's a very good partner to us. I see silver linings here, I see progress. You know after the horrible incidents in February in the system, you know the NYPD put additional 644 officers into the system. They say those officers are still in the system. I'm going to take them at their word. Then they announced an additional 80. Then they announced another additional 80. I've doubled the number of security contractors I have in the system, so pretty soon you're talking about real numbers. I see some progress here. I'm going to continue to advocate for my customers and my workers, that's my job. But I'm starting to see a little bit of progress. I'm going to continue to hold the Mayor's feet to the fire on it though.
Stokes: Okay, so I'm going to do the numbers. On Friday, four in the morning. On Saturday, the good Samaritan bitten and choked. And then yesterday, a straphanger robbed at gunpoint and two others punched in the face. I keep hearing us talk about the mental health illness being a part of this. Some of these are not someone who has a mental health issue. Some of these are just blatant criminals, who are actually operating in three’s. So how do you distinguish and really get to the root problem?
Feinberg: No, that's exactly right. Look, we clearly have a mental health crisis in the system, but we've also got folks who are taking advantage of a system where they may not think, they may not be seeing police on the platform, where they may be feeling like it's a good moment to you know take advantage of someone. So, we've clearly got both issues going on. Look, I think all of those issues are resolved by additional personnel and resources in the system. Mental health personnel, policing, uniform support, all of that is going to help address this. Look, even one incident is far too many. This is New York City, we are supposed to be the safest city and the safest subway system in the country and in the world. I still believe that this system can be the bright shining star, the example of the world. We got to get there. I'm going to continue to advocate for more resources so that we can get there.
Stokes: So, while you're talking Sarah, we’re showing video of the disinfecting going on within the train cars. We know that a year ago, was shut down from 1 to 5 and then 2 to 4 and now we're open 24/7 again. So, explain how they're going to work the cleaning process?
Feinberg: So right. So, we've been cleaning 24/7, you know, throughout this entire pandemic and we're going to continue to do that. We know from our customers they appreciate that they feel really safe from COVID in the system. They appreciate that this is the cleanest subway system they've ever seen. The cleanest bus system they've ever experienced in New York. So, we're going to keep up with all of that. Obviously, it's more of a challenge when there are you know riders in the system 24-hours a day, but it doesn't mean we can't do both things. We can both carry riders and clean. Now to be clear, you know we're helped by the fact that there aren’t 10s of 1000s of people in this system overnight. Ridership is you know; ridership overnight has never been particularly high. Ridership right now overnight is not going to be you know through the roof and so we're able to continue to do everything that we need to do. Certainly, a challenge on our end to continue to do everything with people in this system, but I have total confidence, we'll be able to do it.
Scotto: So, the mayor says the only way the subway system is going to be running properly and safely—well this is what he says has to happen. We have a little interview with him to keep a strong presence in the subways, we're going to do all the things we need to do to bring the city back and I really think there's a direct interconnection now, the more people come back to the subways, the safer, they will get.
Scotto: All right. So do you agree, the safer the city, the subways will be, is if we have more people riding the subways?
Feinberg: Sure, but look I think everybody agrees on that we all know that there's a tipping point at you know, four, four and a half, five, five and a half million people a day where there's tremendous safety in numbers. You trade that out for other problems, you can't get a seat you're packed in like sardines. But that said, there's certainly safety in numbers I think the fundamental disagreement is how do we get from here to there, you know, I feel like we've got to make the system feel very safe and secure to customers so we can be responsive to those people who are sitting on the sidelines, not coming back yet. The mayor's just saying we're going to get there eventually, like eventually we'll get to enough, enough riders where we’ll hit that tipping point. I'm saying help us get there. Help me, partner with me to get us there so that the city comes back, and the economy comes back.
Scotto: So, I'm wondering, you are the interim president, of the New York City Transit subway system, interim. Why not throw your hat into the mayor's race. It seems like you do not fear anyone. Is that something you would think about?
Feinberg: No, hard no. It is an honor that you suggested it because it's an honor to serve in any capacity, so thank you.
Scotto: Would you consider them being the permanent president of the New York City Transit Authority.
Feinberg: I have said have to get through all of the crisis at hand, and then I'll make my big career decisions. Okay so, so it was the pandemic--I believe we're getting on the other side of that pandemic, which is great news, now I'm getting to the other side of the return of 24/7 service, so let me get to the other side of getting what I need in the system and then we'll figure it out. But look, I do I see progress from the Mayor, from the City Hall, and from the Police Commissioner again, I can't praise Commissioner Shea enough. And from City Hall look, a week ago they were saying, you know, we don't know what she's talking about, there's nothing to see here, they're now saying this is a big problem we're going to turn it around, we're putting massive resources in, we're putting additional police officers in. I'm here for it, we're getting there.
Scotto: Yeah, you know, I hear you thanking the Police Commissioner, I don't hear you thinking that six-foot seven guy who is waking up at Gracie Mansion this morning.
Feinberg: Look, I will tell you I am feeling progress from City Hall. 10 days ago, they were saying nothing to see here, I don't know what she's talking about, and they're now saying we're going to put massive resources in, we're going to turn this thing around, so I'm going to take my wins where I can get them.
Stokes: All right, New York City Transit Interim President, Sarah Feinberg, with us this morning. Thank you, Sarah.