Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the New York City subway system has been shut down overnight since last spring, ostensibly for deep cleaning, even though trains can be cleaned at their terminals during the day, and even though trains have continued running during overnight hours all along, just empty.
Now, Yankee Stadium is a 24/7 vaccination site, and Citi Field is supposed to be one but isn’t yet because of limited vaccine supply. City Council member Brad Lander is one of many civic leaders noting that in order to help people get to these vaccination sites, and to give frontline workers an easier time getting to their jobs, it’s time to reopen the subway.
In the City That Never Sleeps, the governor who’s responsible for the operation of the Metropolitan Transit Authority has responded by…
… announcing that fans will be allowed at basketball and hockey games later this month.
Is this some kind of a cruel joke?
There’s already been a firestorm around the MTA this week because another “COVID response,” removing benches from subway stations, was revealed in a since-deleted tweet from the MTA to really have been about the fact that people without homes seek shelter in the subway. As much as homelessness is a governmental failure in the first place — and there should be a focus on getting people a better place to sleep than in the subway — the removal of the benches without addressing the root problems is nothing more than cruelty and hygiene theater.
So, now, Cuomo is keeping the subway closed overnight, continuing to burden the vital and the vulnerable, while opening up entertainment options for the privileged? The people who get to go to these games are going to be those who can afford season tickets in the first place, just as those who get to enjoy Cuomo’s reopened indoor dining are those who have the time and money to enjoy meals out — in a state that still has an 8.2% unemployment rate. At least in that case there’s a little bit of benefit to restaurateurs and restaurant workers, but it also puts them at greater risk of COVID as the customers come and go and mill about indoors.
Cuomo’s plan for reopening arenas to fans isn’t even good. Fans have to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the event? Oh, okay… because once you get a negative test, you’re guaranteed not to get the virus for three days? The seven-day average test positivity rate in New York City right now is 5.13%. The virus is still very much here.
But this is the same Andrew Cuomo who sought advice at the height of the pandemic’s first wave from Jeff Wilpon, who pushed for sports to get back to playing behind closed doors way back in April, and who unironically wrote a book about “leadership lessons” from the pandemic, even though he’s the governor of the state that still has the highest death toll from the pandemic, despite being only the fourth-largest state in the union and despite the fact that Texas and Florida are run by some of the worst people in the country, namely Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis.
Cuomo’s big advice last summer was “Don’t be stupid.” He should listen to himself.