featured image: Governor Andrew Cuomo demonstrates track improvement work as part of Subway Action Plan. Full funded Subway Action Plan allows for acceleration work on continuously welded rail, which reduces track related delays. MTA will double rate of continuously welded rail installations from 19.9 miles to 39.8 miles of track (Governor’s Office)
On Thursday morning, Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon held a campaign event on the L line, shaking hands with riders, posing for photos, and watching as multiple trains skipped the packed Lorimer Station. When she eventually did get on the L, it took her 20 minutes to travel to 1st Avenue, two stops away.
Riding the subway is something that Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn’t done since December 31, 2016, when he and his family and a bunch of other important people cracked champagne and took the inaugural ride on the just-completed Second Avenue Subway.
They didn’t need to be anywhere, exactly. They just wanted to ride it, for fun. There’s even video to commemorate the occasion.
Cuomo’s press office did not dispute that the governor’s last subway ride occurred in the final hours of 2016, and referred to a comment Cuomo made on May 9, when he was at the Avenue M station in Midwood, standing next to the subway tracks, demonstrating a welding technique.
“I have been on subway tracks probably once every few weeks working with the MTA on situations like today,” Cuomo told a reporter who asked him about his last subway ride as a commuter. “I don’t commute within New York City.”
A month earlier, the governor took a tour of the 9th Avenue subway station on the Sunset Park D line, where he got to try out a new magnetic wand used to clean metal dust from insulated joints in the tracks. “Why haven’t joints been replaced before?” asked Cuomo. “It’s always been money, and preventive maintenance is the first thing to go.”
Austin Finan, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, provided Gothamist with a list of the mayor’s last 18 subway rides in 2018 alone, most recently this past Monday.
“It’s important that public officials experience the subway crisis like everyone else does,” Finan said.
Now, a reasonable person might argue that riders are not interested in seeing the state’s most powerful politician, who as chief executive presided over the meltdown of New York City’s public transit system for nearly eight years, who once redundantly asked for the authority to control the MTA after denying that he controlled the MTA, standing on the subway surrounded by a gaggle of reporters and security personnel, further ruining their morning commutes.
One could make the case that such cameos are nothing more than cheap politicking, and that it’s clear both Nixon and de Blasio are simply seizing on an opportunity to criticize their mutual rival (who, it bears repeating, ultimately controls the failing transit system).
At the same time, it’s not as if Cuomo’s tenure has been marked by a conscientious aversion to political theater. Seemingly every time it snows, the governor and his press team somehow manage to find a stalled tractor trailer to spontaneously rescue (or a subway system to unilaterally shut down). There is reason to believe that his well-documented track work is not actually doing much to improve the system’s maintenance. And he has traveled to Israel at least twice in the last four years, and is planning a third visit in the coming weeks to “show friendship when times are tough.”
So if the governor is going to be pandering anyway, shouldn’t he at least aim some of that sweet communion at the millions of daily subway riders, the vast majority of which are his constituents? You know, like he did in 2014?
We’ve been having a rough go of it recently, and who knows, it might be cathartic to know that the man who controls the MTA is aware of our mounting pain.
On Monday, Cuomo spoke at Pier 60 in Chelsea at the League of Conservation Voters gala. It’s a two-and-a-half mile, 30 minute trip via the 7 train and the A/C from his office in Midtown. Cuomo could have squeezed in with the masses struggling to board a rush hour C train, cursed the jerks who refuse to take off their backpacks, pointed to the inaccurate countdown clocks that made him misjudge the calculation of his precious time.
But he didn’t.