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Carpocalypse Now: NYSE Traders Return to Work on Tuesday — Barred from Public Transit

2:18 PM EDT on May 25, 2020

The horror. The horror.

The horror.

The influx of car commuters that many experts believe will be a long-term affect of the coronavirus pandemic begins in earnest on Tuesday with the reopening of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor, whose members are explicitly banned from taking public transportation to get to work — and the de Blasio administration has done little to prepare for the carvasion.

Margaret Chin wants affordable housing instead of parking. Will her City Council colleagues join her? Photo: NYC Council
Lower Manhattan Council Member Margaret Chin. Photo: NYC Council

The New York Stock Exchange has not responded to press inquiries since it announced earlier this month that it would reopen the floor for trading with the requirement that no employee use public transportation — and the de Blasio administration has ignored queries about the potential of hundreds of cars flooding the cramped Federal Hall area.

The administration has not even responded to an urgent letter from Council Member Margaret Chin, who said the ban on public transit "has raised serious questions about how Lower Manhattan streets will be impacted" — not to mention raising "deep concerns about the precedent it sets for other companies who are also eager to reopen."

"Not only does a public transportation ban send a message of exclusion, it is unclear what kind of public health rationale, if any, was involved in this decision," Chin added, bemoaning the de Blasio administration's lack of "clarity ... on what is being done to mitigate a likely surge in vehicular traffic in the downtown area."

The de Blasio administration has created a temporary protected bike lane on Lower Broadway — but it is unclear how many NYSE traders will opt for two wheels rather than four. Plus, many visitors to the area have reported that the bike lane is effectively useless because NYPD officers park their cars in it.

Useful or not, Chin is concerned that "the return of traffic congestion will not only negate positive outcomes [such as open streets and the bike lane], but will also worsen air quality, which has been increasingly linked to COVID-19 exposure and transmission."

For Chin, the issue gets down simply to leadership: "These are decisions that require robust interagency planning, not arbitrary arrangements," she wrote. "The city must play a leading role in overseeing and approving company reopening policies, especially in matters related to public health, transportation, and workforce protection."

A spokesman for City Hall said the mayor's fair recovery task force would report back to Hizzoner by June 1. The mayor's "surface transportation" task force is not expected to issue a report at all, but has begun its work. The mayor "will be meeting with the transportation sector advisory council in the coming weeks," said spokesman Mitch Schwartz. "I'm sure the traffic impacts of reopening will be discussed at length. It is obviously a major consideration, and the mayor looks forward to hearing their recommendations."

The panel is dominated by cab and trucking interests, as Streetsblog has reported.

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