New York officials defend curfew, subway safety ahead of Monday reopening

Nathan Layne and Barbara Goldberg
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New York officials defend curfew, subway safety ahead of Monday reopening

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York

By Nathan Layne and Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) - Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said New York is on track to reopen on Monday from the coronavirus lockdown that turned the most populous U.S. city into a virtual ghost town, restarting work at 32,000 shuttered construction sites.

Both the mayor and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo dug in after critics urged an end to an 8 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew set to last until Monday morning following looting and other violence amid city protests sparked by George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.

Los Angeles is among several U.S. cities that lifted curfews after critics said they unnecessarily restricted the right to protest.

"5 a.m. Monday the curfew ends and does not come back," de Blasio told a news conference.

Cuomo, who had been at de Blasio's side when the curfew was announced earlier this week, said it was a "local decision" he supports, noting, "you have not seen the looting in the past couple of days."

On Monday, the first stage in restoring economic activity will allow 32,000 construction sites to reopen, de Blasio said.

"Getting people back their livelihood - that's what Phase 1 is about," he said.

Trains in the world's largest subway system have undergone weeks of disinfecting, and platforms have been marked for social distancing. The city is confident people will be safe, said city Transit Authority Interim President Sarah Feinberg.

"The system is going to be busy. There will be crowding conditions," Feinberg said. "People have to be very vigilant about mask usage and putting as much space between themself and others as they can."

While clearly mass transit "is the way to get around" the often-congested city, many will choose instead to drive their own cars, she said, offering two words of advice to New Yorkers with a short commute: "Consider walking."

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey; editing by Jonathan Oatis)