NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City entered Phase 1 of reopening Monday — the last region in the state to reach the milestone.
“The most important thing to remember today is don’t forget the lessons we’ve learned. We got this far by the hard work and the discipline,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his daily briefing. “We’ve got to stick to it so we can get to the next phase, and the next phase and the next phase.”
The mayor said part of a successful restart is making sure people can safely commute to work.
“A faster way to work, more service, less crowding,” said de Blasio. “Look, more service equals less crowding equals more health and safety.”
The city will create additional busways on Main Street and Jamaica Avenue in Queens, Jay Street in Brooklyn and at Fifth Avenue and 81st Street in Manhattan.
The new busways are expected to be in place by October for the start of a one-year pilot program.
The mayor also said the city will increase rush-hour service on the Staten Island Ferry to every 20 minutes. There will be social distancing markers, along with free hand sanitizer and face coverings.
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As for the subway, the mayor said approximately 800 school safety agents are being deployed to stations, where they will help educate riders about the new safety measures.
“We need to show people that we think some really important work has been done to make subways and buses safe,” de Blasio said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo rode a near-empty subway into Grand Central Station on Monday morning.
Other commuters also noticed less company than normal.
“Not seeing many people, which makes me feel comfortable,” Josh Blackman of Park Slope told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes. “The train is also very clean, which is a nice thing.”
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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority spent the weekend preparing to welcome back riders.
“We’re disinfecting stations twice a day,” Senior Vice President for Subways Sally Librera told CBS2.
Crews cleaned cars, put out hand sanitizer bottles, and placed social distancing markers on the platforms at the 96th Street subway station.
“We are now cleaning cars five, six, seven times a day,” said NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg. “We are going to continue to do that. It’s one of the ways we can keep our workers and riders safe and healthy.”
The MTA said it cannot promise that social distancing will be possible on trains and buses, but crews installed new social distancing signage at stations, along with plenty of hand sanitizer.
“This is the New York City transit subway system and maintaining six feet isn’t always possible,” said Librera. “So we’re laying out these visual cues to remind our riders to do what they can to distance themselves, to always wear face masks.”
Face masks are mandatory across the entire transit system.
Two million face coverings will be available for commuters who need them. A new survey found 92% of riders are wearing the required coverings, but officials urge 100% compliance.
The system is still shutting down between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. for cleaning, and there’s no date yet for the return of 24/7 service, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.
“I think we at least need to get through the pandemic,” Feinberg said.
The mayor has said as many as 400,000 people could be headed back to work this week.
Phase 1 means retail can return with curbside or in-store pickup, along with construction and manufacturing.
Businesses should contact Small Business Services for information on safety protocols and face coverings for their employees.
The department can be reached by calling 888-727-4692 or visiting nyc.gov/business.
Some restaurant owners, like Tommy Greco, believe their businesses should be included.
“I think there should have been something that was implemented a little bit,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to just open up to open up and put peoples’ lives in danger, but I definitely feel with masks, with social distancing, I’m comfortable.”
De Blasio has said outdoor dining is part of Phase 2.
“According to the official chart of the state, it could be as little as two weeks until we get to Phase 2. I want to keep expectations a little lower than that,” he said. “Think about the beginning of July as a target.”