Dates set for subway, city reopening

Gov. Cuomo announces plans to lift most Covid-19 restrictions beginning this month.

Gov. Cuomo on Monday announced that 24-hour subway service will return on Monday, May 17, with almost all indoor capacity restrictions on restaurants, theaters and other public accommodations being eased or eliminated on May 19.

Business types include retail, food services, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services, among other settings. It will also apply in houses of worship.

“The tide is turning against COVID-19 in New York, and thanks to our increasing vaccination rates, as well as our successful, data-based regional approach, we’re able to take more steps to reopen our economy, help businesses and workers, and keep moving towards returning to normal,” Cuomo said during his daily press conference.

Last Saturday, May 1, the state eliminated outdoor restrictions including limits on table sizes, and the requirement that food be served with alcohol

The 6-foot social distancing rule, the governor said, will remain in place.

Cuomo said the move was made in consultation with neighboring Gov. Phil Murphy and Ned Lamont “to assure uniformity across the tristate area.”

He also said the opening up of the subways was deliberately set just before the beginning of the mass reopenings to allow people to take part more easily.

The subways first closed between 1 and 5 a.m. on March 6 last year to allow for deep cleaning of every subway car in the system every 24 hours. Cuomo said the cleaning will continue.

He said curfew restrictions on outdoor food and beverage service will end on May 19, while indoor curfews will be lifted May 31.

Cuomo had been under increasing pressure in recent days to restore 24-hour subway service. Mayor de Blasio, on April 29, said his administration was working on guidelines that could largely reopen the city as of July 1, a date the mayor said would be the perfect time to restart 24/7 subway service.

The mayor did say the city is “below most of the thresholds that we had set to show that this city could continue to come back strong.”

De Blasio said he had not consulted Gov. Cuomo before making the announcement, When asked later about it the same day, the governor said he didn’t agree with the plan.

“I am reluctant to make projections because I think they’re irresponsible,” Cuomo said, stating there is no telling what will happen in May and June. “I’m hopeful the reopening date will be before that. I don’t want to wait that long. If we do what we have to do, we can be reopened earlier.”

Late Monday morning, Riders Alliance Executive Director Betsy Plum hailed the decision to reopen the subways in an email.

“Riders organized and won back 24/7 subway service,” she said. “After more than a year of punishing overnight commutes that impacted tens of thousands of essential workers, New Yorkers will see a long overdue return to a crucial part of normalcy. 

“New York is a 24/7 city because of our subway. The restoration of 24/7 service is a victory not only for the city’s reopening but for New Yorkers’ determination to hold our public officials accountable.”

“For New York City to be a 24 hour city, it needs a 24 hour subway,” said Jaqi Cohen, campaign director for the Straphangers Campaign, in an email.

“We applaud the Governor’s decision to end the hygiene theater that left essential workers stranded overnight for the past 12 months, bringing back much needed overnight service,” Cohen said. “With overnight subway service restored, New Yorkers can breathe easy knowing that our City’s Covid recovery is on the right track.”

Katherine Donlevy contributed to this story.

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