Sept. 10, 2020 By Allie Griffin
New York City straphangers who refuse to wear a mask or face covering will soon face fines of $50, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.
NYPD and MTA officers can begin issuing fines to commuters who refuse to cover their mouth or nose onboard city subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro-North on Monday.
“No rider has the right to endanger fellow riders by putting themselves above the law and refusing to wear a mask,” Cuomo said on Twitter.
About 90 percent of MTA riders have been wearing masks, which have been required since April, according to the agency.
The fine is for the small number of people who aren’t following the mandatory mask-wearing requirement and put others at risk, Cuomo said.
“The vast majority of people are complying and I thank them,” he said. “For the handful who refuse, there will be a new $50 fine.”
Officers will only issue the fine as the last line of action, the MTA said in a statement posted to Twitter.
“Enforcement officers will … offer you a free mask, and if you refuse you could be issued a fine,” the agency said.
Riders without a mask can pick up a free one at subway station booth or from station ambassadors along the LIRR and Metro-North lines.
“It will save you a $50 fine and much more importantly, save lives,” the MTA said.
The Transport Workers Union, TWU Local 100, applauded the announcement. The union has been advocating for greater mask enforcement by use of fines for months, it said.
“This is an important step towards making the bus and subway system safer, and we are grateful that the Governor heard us on this issue,” Local 100 President Tony Utano said in a statement. “Anyone who doesn’t wear a mask, or some other face covering, puts everyone at risk.”
More than 100 MTA employees have been killed by COVID-19.
“We recognize that a fine could be hardship for some,” Utano said. “You know what’s harder? Going to a funeral because someone didn’t wear a mask on a bus or train.”
Here are some ways for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to offset some of the costs for distribution of masks. Ask Mayor Bill de Blasio to honor the MTA New York City Transit request to find 3,000 volunteers to hand out masks and hand sanitizer at all 471 subway stations. The following would could also apply to Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, PATH, NYC DOT Staten Island Ferry and NYC Economic Development Corporation Private Ferry Operator program. Every year judges sentence thousands of non-violent offenders to perform many hours of community service. Why not assign some of these individuals the task of helping the MTA NYC Transit distribute masks and hand sanitizer? Do the same for the hundreds of people previously arrested over the past few months for disturbing the peace, committing arson, braking windows, destroying public property, looting or assaulting police or other law enforcement officers. Virtually all are being released without bail with no consequences for their illegal actions.
(Larry Penner — transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, NYC Transit, MTA Bus, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road and NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other NY & NJ transit agencies).