Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chair and CEO Janno Lieber made a live appearance on the PIX11 Morning News with Dan Mannarino and Hazel Sanchez to discuss subway safety and other transit-related topics.
A transcript of the interview appears below.
Hazel Sanchez: Well subway ridership still hasn't recovered to pre-pandemic levels and the recent wave of violent incidents underground isn't helping matters. So 3.7 million people rode the subways on Tuesday, which is nearly 67% of pre-pandemic levels.
Dan Mannarino: Yeah, it's been over a week since they announced a new transit safety initiative, and the MTA is already seeing results. Joining us this morning, MTA CEO Janno Lieber to break it all down for us. So good to see you in person. Thanks for coming in to talk about this.
Janno Lieber: Thanks Dan, Hazel, it's good to be with you.
Mannarino: Obviously, you obviously know the subway is the lifeline of New York City, right? And we're seeing this new initiative right now, 1200 additional NYPD officers into the subways. But that's not new. We have seen NYPD being surged into the transit system before when there was heightened crime. Why is this time different? What are you seeing?
Lieber: Well, first of all the numbers are new. This is 1200 additional officers on top of a force of about 1200 to 2000 every day. It is making a difference, both in terms of actual apprehensions to catching bad guys, but equally important in letting riders know there are cops on the trains, on the platform. Our riders tell us seeing a cop is the one thing that makes them feel safe and good about riding the subway, and this is making a difference. Dan, I just got to tell you, yesterday was a great example of the difference that this initiative has made. There were as you say, 3.7 million riders about the same numbers as the City of Los Angeles’s entire population. We had four incidents. All robbery, three robberies, and attempted robbery. Every one of them resulted in an apprehension. Cop on the platform got someone who had tried to steal cell phone. Cops on the train saw somebody who was trying to do a pickpocket, and they apprehended him in the act. So, this is actually deterring crime, stopping crime, and making riders feel safe.
Sanchez: This is one day though.
Sanchez: This is one day. I ride it every day. And I've talked to riders every day. I have a babysitter that rides it every day. And they're losing confidence though still. I mean, there are random attacks that are so frightening. We spoke with a gentleman, a 78-year-old man, who was assaulted on the train. Let's listen to what he had to say. And then we'll talk on the other side.
Stuart Beinhacker, 78-year-old Man (recorded 11/1/22): There was no officers. There was no cameras on that train. They're going to have cameras. They're not, no it's not working. I'm just so worried about everyone, and I just hope that they're really careful, and maybe not say or even look at anybody anymore, because anything can spark something off.
Sanchez: Now, I agree with you because like I said, I ride it every day on the way home from work. I have seen a lot more officers on the train, and it is comforting, but he said he didn't see any and now we're hoping that these cameras are going to be on the train. How soon is that going to happen?
Lieber: The installations are happening already. We know that cameras work, because literally everybody who does a crime in the in the system if you look at it, is being apprehended same day or the next day. So, cameras work, they stop crime, and they deter future crime because criminals eventually figure out this is going to happen. I spoke to that gentleman. I telephoned him because what he went through is what someone never should have to go through, and it makes me feel responsible that that happened to him on the train. But what I said to him was, listen, you had a bad experience, but we are attacking the problem broadly. And it's starting to make a difference and I want to keep—and he said to me, “I am not going to be deterred. I'm not going to be fearful. I'm going to keep living my life.” And that's what we know New Yorkers are like, we just have to make sure that they feel safe and that they are safe, and it's starting to happen.
Mannarino: Yeah, I mean, as a New Yorker, right, and you’re seeing it play out with the numbers. There are more riders than ever before. We're seeing the numbers keep going up from the pre-pandemic levels, but subway crime up from 42% from last year. So, some might say the 1200 officers now attacking it and seeing what we saw yesterday play out, that’s great, but what took so long?
Lieber: Listen, there's no question that some things have happened in the city post pandemic. We're all experiencing it. One thing that I am, the governor is especially attuned to, and I am especially attuned to, is the presence of people in the public space including in the subways who are suffering from severe mental illness. We have to do something to get them out of the public space where they're having a disproportionate impact on what it's like to be in New York. And New Yorkers are compassionate. They see people struggling, but when their psychosis or whatever they're going through results in acting in ways that are scary to people, we have to get them inside, get them into treatment. The governor took major action just a week ago to create a whole new psychiatric facility just for subway, you know, severely mentally ill people in the subway. We're retraining all the clinicians to get those people out of the public space. That is also starting to make a difference. The other thing, Dan, you know, the difference that is being made just from this one surge is--yeah, subway crime is up this year, but compared to pre pandemic, it's down 4%. That's just perspective. There's no, we're not going to stop.There's no way to sort of downplay this, but just a little perspective. And in the last week, quality of life enforcement up 118%, arrests up 95%. So, there is a difference that's being made with this new initiative, and cameras as you mentioned, Hazel, and dealing with the problem of these people are suffering from mental illness. All of it is a comprehensive pattern.
Sanchez: Clearly, that is one of the things that we definitely need a lot of help with. What do you think about Mayor Adams heading into the subway?
Lieber: Listen, the mayor, the mayor is an ex-transit cop. He's passionate about this stuff. He, you know, in the prior administration, you know, all good people, but I couldn't get them to push cops on, to deploy cops, onto the platforms and onto the trains, which is what I was asking for. The mayor did it immediately. And he has continued to partner up with us and with the governor as we attack this problem. And the ridership as you said is growing, we're starting to see comebacks, we're gonna hit four million any day. We hit a record last [week], a record weekend, a record on all the commuter railroads, the commuter railroads are coming back. Things are headed in a good direction.
Mannarino: Yes, they are. And I will say I rode the train the other day, I don’t ride it every single day. But I did ride the train today. And I have to say I missed it by a second. The doors were closing, and I said “oh boy , I’m gonna have to wait here forever”. And it came, there's another one right after the other.
Lieber: That’s the idea.
Mannarino: Right after, the line, so it's good to see increased service. MTA CEO Janno Lieber. Good to have you here. Keep us posted. People are interested in this. This is a lifeline in New York City. It's very important. We want to have you back to talk more about that.
Lieber: Good to be with you, thanks.