National Guard and State Troopers in NYC subways as they tell us crime rates have dropped: What are they not telling us?

National Guard-NYC-Subway

Important Takeaways:

  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced plans Wednesday to send the National Guard to the New York City subway system to help police conduct random searches of riders’ bags for weapons following a series of high-profile crimes on city trains.
  • Hochul, a Democrat, said she will deploy 750 members of the National Guard to the subways to assist the New York Police Department with bag checks at entrances to busy train stations.
  • The move came as part of a larger effort from the governor’s office to address crime in the subway. She also floated a legislative proposal to ban people from trains for three years if they are convicted of assaulting a subway passenger and said officials would install cameras in conductor cabins to protect transit workers.
  • The governor said she will also send 250 state troopers and police officers from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a state agency, to help with the bag searches.
  • Overall, crime has dropped in New York City since a spike during the COVID-19 pandemic, and killings are down on the subway system. But rare fatal shootings and shoving’s on the subway can put residents on edge. Just last week, a passenger slashed a subway conductor in the neck, delaying trains.

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Brooklyn terrorist attack suspect taken into custody

Important Takeaways:

  • Brooklyn shooting suspect Frank James taken into police custody
  • The madman who allegedly opened fire on a Brooklyn subway car, shooting 10 and leaving another 19 injured, has been taken into custody, law enforcement sources told The Post on Wednesday.
  • Frank James, 62, is the prime suspect in Tuesday’s attack and had been on the lam for more than 24 hours after he allegedly disguised himself as a construction worker and fired 33 rounds onboard a Manhattan-bound N train in Sunset Park during the early-morning rush.
  • Cops are still working to determine how James escaped after the attack, but they initially believed he blended in with a wave of commuters who transferred to the R train immediately following the incident.

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Transportation chief says aid needed by November to avoid big NYC subway and bus cuts

By Axel Threlfall

(Reuters) – New York’s coronavirus-hit Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will have to start implementing a dramatic job and service reduction plan in November if it does not receive billions of dollars in federal aid, the agency’s chairman said on Thursday.

Speaking in a virtual Reuters Newsmaker event, Patrick Foye said the MTA’s upcoming board meeting in November was the cutoff date for pulling the trigger on a plan to lay off 8,400 workers and cut city subway and bus service by up to 40 percent.

“That is the point at which we would have to begin implementing the service reductions and layoffs,” Foye said, adding that the MTA would also shelve a $51.5 billion capital plan to fix and upgrade North America’s biggest transportation system.

“If we are not able to make those investments, there will be a deterioration in service, as occurred in New York City in the 70’s and 80’s, and we don’t want to go back there,” Foye said.

Foye and John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union of America, warned in an opinion article this week in the New York Times that the MTA faced a “five-alarm fire” and called on the U.S. Senate to approve funds to save it.

In July, the MTA unveiled a four-year financial plan that estimated a $16.2 billion deficit by 2024, with more than a third of those losses coming next year, a signal that it does not see ridership, hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, rebounding significantly anytime soon.

The agency, which runs New York City buses and subways and two commuter railroads that connect the city with suburbs, is losing $200 million in revenue a week and estimates it needs another $3.9 billion in federal aid to get through the end of this year and a total of $10.3 billion through 2021.

In addition to the plunge in revenue, the MTA has had to spend more to clean subway cars, stations and buses to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Subway service, which formerly ran for 24 hours, was closed down from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to make that cleaning possible, another hit to ridership.

Even with congressional negotiations on further federal assistance at a standstill, Foye said he still held out hope that the Republican-controlled Senate would approve additional funding for the MTA before the Nov. 3 national election.

“If reason prevails and the national interest is pursued by the Senate, the Republican leadership in the Senate and Washington, the MTA will be financed,” Foye said.

Foye said he was not optimistic there would be any progress this year on congestion pricing, a program that charges vehicles entering Manhattan a fee. The program was supposed to account for $15 billion of the MTA’s capital spending plan, but its rollout has been slowed by the federal government not determining what environmental review is needed.

Foye described the withholding of aid from the MTA and the New York City region as a “punitive” act by Washington, echoing concerns by cities and states run by Democrats that they are being targeted by Republican President Donald Trump.

Foye suggested that the election of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has been a frequent rider on Amtrak passenger trains and a supporter of public transportation, might lead to better outcomes for the MTA.

“I believe that he’s got a different view of the importance of mass transit and public transit,” Foye said.

(Reporting by Axel Threlfall; additional reporting by Nathan Layne and Tina Bellon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Overnight closure of New York subways may presage bigger changes

By Nathan Layne

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City’s subway, the ear-splitting, nerve-jangling system that New Yorkers and tourists alike love to hate, is taking the unprecedented step of halting overnight service in order to clean train cars, a likely prelude to bigger changes as the largest U.S. mass transit system works to rebound from a pandemic that has slashed ridership.

The subway system, whose more than 600 miles of track criss-cross four of New York’s five boroughs, will close between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. beginning May 6 to allow crews to disinfect the cars each night to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday. The city’s buses will also be cleaned every night, he said.

Commuter advocates and transit experts saw the move, the first for a subway system known for its round-the-clock service, as signaling a period of sweeping change for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state-controlled agency that oversees a system that until recently carried 9 million passengers a day.

The MTA is talking with transport agencies around the world to glean best practices while looking at how to enforce social distancing and at staggered hours for businesses returning to work, an issue being discussed with governors and corporate and labor leaders, a spokesman for the agency said.

MTA’s plan to “bring riders back” to the transit system will focus on safety, the agency’s spokeswoman, Abbey Collins, said. “We will also be asking our customers to change their behavior, including wearing face coverings.”

The changes come as the MTA grapples with a more than 90% decline in subway ridership as New York locked down to fight the coronavirus. The agency has also stopped collecting bus fares in order to protect its drivers, further denting revenues.

Earlier this month MTA Chairman Pat Foye asked for another $3.9 billion in federal aid, on top of the $3.8 billion already allocated to the agency, to cover pandemic-related costs expected to climb as high as $8.5 billion.

Foye has said federal funding also is needed to preserve a $51.5 billion capital budget for 2020-2024 aimed at modernizing the subway’s antiquated signal systems and expansion projects.

Philip Plotch, the author of “Last Subway: The Long Wait for the Next Train in New York City,” said the MTA would have to look at cutting capacity for each subway car to achieve some measure of social distancing. Under normal conditions, each car can carry about 100 riders, though he expects ridership to remain depressed for some time.

“A lot of businesses are not going to want to open,” he said. “Clearly you are not going to have the same level of tourists, and schools are going to be slow for a while.”


New York has been at the center of the pandemic in the United States, accounting for nearly half of the 60,000 Americans killed by COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

When the virus hit, the city was in the process of rewriting the bus routes in all five boroughs, part of a reform of a transit system that has been criticized for not serving the communities most in need.

Ben Fried, a spokesman at TransitCenter, a foundation which advocates for improving public transit systems, pointed to San Francisco’s move to concentrate bus service on the highest ridership lines and serve hospitals and low-income areas as a potential model for New York.

“I think that is the way to position transit for the future and for safe operations in a post-COVID world,” Fried said. “If the bus system can absorb that it means there is going to be less crowding on the subway. Even if it’s 5 to 10 percent it would be significant.”

Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director at Riders Alliance, a commuter advocacy group, said the closing of early-morning subway service should be temporary. It is more important that the MTA look at ways to increase the frequency of subway service, especially during rush hour, he said, though that would rely on federal funding that may or may not materialize.

Pearlstein also advocated a rethink to cater train and bus service more toward essential workers such as nurses and grocery and pharmacy clerks, who may take earlier- or later-than-normal trains.

“The subway has been seen as great equalizer. What we need now is equitable service,” Pearlstein said. “If New York is not going be a shadow of its former self, transit has to work for people in different ways than it has in the past.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Wary of public transport, coronavirus-hit Americans turn to bikes

By Timothy Aeppel

(Reuters) – Add fear to the list of reasons people ride bikes.

“I’m 51 and healthy, but I don’t want to get on the subway,” said John Donohue, a Brooklyn-based artist who bought a bike two weeks ago. Donohue, who doesn’t own a car, says he’s not sure when he’ll be comfortable on mass transit again.

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a surge in bike sales across the United States, according to a major manufacturer and a half dozen retailers interviewed by Reuters.

Many of the purchases are by people looking for a way to get outside at a time of sweeping shutdowns and stay-at-home orders aimed at containing the virus: Even the worst affected states are allowing people out to exercise.

Still, a portion of the sales, especially in urban areas, are to people like Donohue who also want to avoid the risk of contagion on buses or subways.

He plans to use his new 24-gear hybrid for journeys such as regular visits to a printing shop across town that he normally travels to by subway. A key feature, he said, was the bright red panniers he added to carry his artwork.

To be sure, bikes remain well down the list of U.S. commuting preferences.

About 870,000 Americans, on average, commuted to work by bicycle in the five years through 2017, or about 0.6% of all workers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The rate was higher in urban areas, at about 1.1%, and about 20 cities with at least 60,000 residents had rates of about 5% or more.

A more recent survey, though, showed a higher percentage of U.S. workers using a bike to get to work. Private research firm Statista Inc.’s 2019 survey showed 5% rode their own bike, while another 1% used a bike share service, an increasingly common option in larger cities.


The government has declared bicycles an essential transportation item, so many bike shops remain open despite the widespread business shutdown. Many, though, have modified how they operate, no longer letting buyers test bikes and handing them over on the curb rather than inside the store.

According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, roughly three-quarters of U.S. bike sales are through big box stores. While many of the outlets of large specialty sporting goods chains are closed, general merchandisers like WalMart Stores Inc, the largest seller of bikes, remain open. Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.

Kent International Inc., which imports bikes from China and also makes them at a plant in South Carolina, said sales of its low-priced bikes had surged over the past month.

Kent is already out of stock on five of its top 20 models and expects that to rise to 10 by the end of the month, chief executive and chairman Arnold Kamler said. He noted supplies were flowing in from China, which has reopened much of its manufacturing base over the past month.

Kamler said sales at most of the major retailers he supplies were up 30% last month and are up over 50% so far in April, with the surge in demand forcing him to change shipping arrangements.

He normally imports bikes to ports on both the East and West Coasts. But with many retailers asking for more bikes, he’s now directing all shipments into West Coast ports, then transporting them across the country. That adds to freight costs, he said, but can cut weeks off delivery times.


Mark Vautour, who manages a bike store near the Boston University campus, said he had sold bikes to anxious commuters – including at least one medical worker who wanted an alternative to using the subway.

“We’ve joked for years that trains are like a petri dish,” Vautour said.

Mostly, though, his sales have been children’s bikes, “because parents don’t know what to do with their kids.”

One indication that people are buying bikes for more utilitarian uses like commuting is that many of the purchases are low-priced bikes, several bike retailers said.

Joe Nocella, owner of 718 Cyclery & Outdoors in Brooklyn, said his normal “sweet spot” was bikes that sell for $1,500 to $2,000, used by city dwellers for touring.

“Now the average bike has turned to $500 to $800,” he said.

Those lower prices are one reason many bike retailers are struggling, despite strong sales.

Andrew Crooks, chief executive of NYC Velo, a three-store chain in the New York area, said the drop in average selling prices meant revenues had fallen at a time when he was still paying rents, salaries and other costs.

“So we could keep our doors open and still end up with a business that’s not viable,” he said.

Still, some new buyers say they are switching to bikes for the long term.

Having been stuck at home in Baltimore, Kaitlyn Lee bought a $550 bike this weekend so she could get outdoors safely and avoid public transport when she gets a job.

Lee will finish a graduate degree in public health at the University of Maryland this spring and has applied for jobs at the Centers for Disease Control and the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Her plan is to commute by bike to a future job, if possible.

“I mean, it’ll never completely vanish,” she said of the coronavirus. “Rather we will learn how to live alongside of it, just like with other viruses.”

(Reporting by Tim Aeppel; Editing by Dan Burns and Mark Potter)

New York subway attack shows limits of counterterror strategy

New York subway attack shows limits of counterterror strategy

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Minutes after a man set off a pipe bomb strapped to his body in one of New York’s busiest transit hubs, throwing the Monday morning commute into chaos for many, a suspect was in custody, trains were rerouted and throngs of police swarmed the streets.

The massive response exposed the limits of the antiterrorism force the city has built since the deadly attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It has learned to respond quickly and effectively to attacks but faces an almost impossible task in trying to thwart every threat, particularly the acts of “lone wolves” targeting public places and New York’s vast transit system.

Nearly 6 million people ride New York’s subway each day, entering at any one of the system’s 472 stations – more stops than any other in the world.

That open access is partly what allows U.S. train systems to carry five times as many passengers as airlines but also leaves unique security vulnerabilities, according to a Congressional Research Service report earlier this year.

“You can’t search everyone entering a subway system, particularly a system the size of the one in New York,” said Tom Nolan, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security analyst who is now a professor of criminology at Merrimack College in Massachusetts.

No one was killed in Monday’s attack, and the person most severely injured was the accused bomber, whom police identified as Akayed Ullah, 27.

New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo sounded relieved when he told reporters that just three other people had been slightly hurt in the attack.

“When you hear about a bomb in the subway station, which is in many ways one of our worst nightmares, the reality turns out better than the initial expectation and fear,” Cuomo said.

He had reason to expect worse: Suicide bombers killed 52 people in on London subways and a bus system in 2005, 40 people were killed in the 2010 bombing of the Moscow subway and last year 32 died in coordinated attacks on Brussels’ subway and airport.

“This is a fact of life, whether you’re in New York or London or Paris,” New York Police Department counterterrorism chief John Miller told reporters. “It can happen anywhere.”


A network of cameras blankets almost all of New York’s subway system, which sprawls over 665 miles (1,070 km) of tracks. The New York City Police Department uses radiation detectors to search for “dirty” bombs, which combine a traditional explosive with radioactive material, said Anthony Roman, a private security consultant who is familiar with NYPD antiterrorism efforts.

Undercover and uniformed police patrol the system, along with bomb-sniffing dogs, random screening posts and heavily armed tactical officers.

The city’s Joint Terrorism Task Force collects intelligence from overseas, and cameras equipped with facial and license plate recognition can help investigators track suspects in real time, Roman said.

But attempting to screen every passenger, as airports do using metal detectors and body scanners, is an impossible task and would only create more opportunities for attacks by causing crowding.

“They will never be 100 percent,” Roman said. “The goal is to prevent and deter the vast majority of events, and for those few that occur, minimize their effect by quick, coordinated, interdepartmental response.”

The NYPD’s Miller said intelligence had stopped at least 26 plots since 2001. But the proliferation of so-called “lone wolf” attackers, who are self-radicalized and not working with an overseas militant group, has made it harder to do so, experts said.

Both Ullah and Sayfullo Saipov, accused of killing eight people on a Manhattan bike lane with a rented truck in the name of Islamic State, appear to have acted alone, according to authorities.

“When you have lone attackers, it’s much more difficult,” said Max Leitschuh, the senior transportation analyst at the risk management and security consulting company iJET International.

Following Monday’s attack, cities including Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles increased security for their mass transit systems.

Ultimately, those efforts are mostly about reassuring the public, said Maria Haberfeld, an expert in police counterterrorism and a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“You have to accept it,” said Haberfeld, who served in a counterterrorist unit in the Israel Defense Forces. “You can only put so many barriers out there before you abandon the idea of an open society.”

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

Iraqi PM: ISIS Plans Attacks On U.S. Subways

The Prime Minister of Iraq says he has credible information regarding an ISIS plot to attack the United States.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi surprised intelligence and transit security officials in the U.S. who said they had no knowledge of the PM’s claims.  New York City officials quickly took to the media to assure citizens the subway system was safe.

“They plan to have attacks in the metros of Paris and the U.S.,” Abedi told reporters after a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. “I asked for more credible information. I asked for names. I asked for details, for cities, you know, dates. And from the details I have received, yes, it looks credible.”

Iraqi intelligence officials would not specifically comment on the PM’s statements other than to say a full assessment of the plans discovered is ongoing.  U.S. officials said they had not confirmed any “specific threat.”

“We want to increase the number of willing countries who would support this,” PM Abedi said. “This is not military. This is intelligence. This is security. The terrorists have a massive international campaign. Don’t underestimate it.”

Al Qaeda Operative Convicted In New York Suicide Bomb Plot

A US Citizen has been convicted for his role in a New York suicide-bomb plot and is facing a lifetime behind bars.

Adis Medunjanin and two friends were preparing to set off suicide bombs on New York subway trains before the 2009 remembrance of the 9/11 attacks. Najibullah Zazi, the self proclaimed “mastermind” of the plot, testified that the men planned to target trains at rush hour because it was the “heart of everything in New York City.” Continue reading