In a move that south Brooklyn straphangers say only adds insult to injury, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has reportedly decided to nix its overnight station cleaners at six R train stations in the borough as part of a new pilot program.
According to the Daily News, the removal of overnight shifts will affect all but one station along the R line between Bay Ridge-95th Street and Prospect Avenue, as of mid-June, tentatively. While there are 10 stops along that stretch, by the time the pilot program begins, three of the stations will be temporarily closed for renovation.
Only the 36th Street station will keep overnight cleaning service, says The News, though it will only have a single cleaner. The agency’s end-goal, reports claim, is ultimately to switch these workers to morning and evening shifts.
At a time where tension is high among R train riders (the MTA recently shuttered two stations along the line’s route – 53rd Street and Bay Ridge Avenue – to accommodate what could very well be a half-a-year’s worth of reconstruction, and has taken a “wait and see” approach when it comes to alleviating any inconvenience those closures might cause), local politicians and riders themselves were quick to react to news of the workers’ removals.
“Considering the fact that the MTA is an entity having more debt than 30 sovereign nations and owing more money than the entire state of New York, we need an honest accounting of how our money is being spent,” said Bay Ridge resident Nick Chamberas, who, just days before this news broke, reached out to this paper regarding the “beyond disgusting” treatment his hometown gets from the MTA. “New Yorkers have to put up with over 70,000 monthly delays compared to 28,000 a few years ago.
“Morever,” he went on, “many riders – particularly in the outer boroughs – have to deal with stations and cars that are filthy.”
Chamberas supplied this paper with photos of trashed R trains, noting that this was not the first time he’s boarded an appalling train car – nor will it be the last.
“Fares keep increasing while service is rapidly deteriorating,” he said. “This latest mistake by the MTA indicates an agency indifferent to what is necessary for a well-run transit system in the 21st century.”
Elected officials shared similar sentiments.
“I am completely baffled by the MTA’s decision to remove overnight cleaning crews from the R stations in my district and along the Fourth Avenue corridor,” contended Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “It is bad enough that hard-working commuters have to deal with habitually delayed and overcrowded R trains day in and day out. Now the MTA thinks it’s [okay] to put the health of commuters at risk too?”
Those cut cleaners, the pol added, serve more than just their contractual purpose.
“Station cleaners are also an extra set of eyes and ears in desolate stations overnight,” he said, stressing that the agency should expect to hear from him. “I will not stand for it.”
“We strongly disagree with the MTA’s decision to remove overnight cleaning crews from R train stations in southern Brooklyn,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger and Assemblymember Pamela Harris in a joint statement. “Residents in the Bay Ridge/Sunset Park areas already have to deal with overburdened, overcrowded and frequently delayed R-train service; now the MTA is putting the health and safety of these riders at risk, as well.”
News of the pilot program came within the same week that not one, but two separate power outages at the DeKalb Avenue station left southern Brooklyn commuters crazed. It also came just days before the agency would announce on Monday, May 15, a new six-point plan to restructure its management.
When reached for comment, an MTA spokesperson stressed that each of the stations affected by the pilot program have Help Point Intercoms as well as a station agent, and that the agency will work with the NYPD to keep stations safe.
In addition, the rep noted that the agency is not reducing the number of cleaners assigned to each station, but rather testing out a pilot program – which is still being reviewed by the union – to make its current workforce more efficient.
Still, locals are critical.
“If the MTA wants to try a pilot program,” Gentile said, “why not try having the trains run on time?”
Another pilot program to clean the entire subway system by the bureaucratic, corruptive and deceptive MTA will be a failure altogether, just like removing the trash cans on all BMT Eastern Division Subway Stations.