MTA whistleblower claims he was pushed off subway platform

By Philip Newman

Authorities are investigating a track worker’s claim that he was pushed off a subway platform onto tracks after he helped direct attention to a situation in which hundreds of track maintenance crew members work four hours for a full day’s pay at a cost of $10 million a year to the transit agency.

Inspector General Barry Kluger of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Tuesday that his agency was cooperating in the investigation into the incident involving Juan De Los Santos, who reported he was shoved onto tracks at the Wilson Avenue station in Brooklyn Dec. 2.

Santos had spoken with the inspector general’s office as part of an investigation into the scheduling of workers on elevated lines shortly before he said he was pushed off the platform. He reported he suffered injuries, including a broken nose, teeth injuries and severe facial cuts.

“I have offered the full cooperation and assistance of our office to the New York City Police Department in the investigation of this matter,” Kluger said. “The safety and well-being of any co-operating witness is obviously of the highest priority.”

Kluger issued a report in which he told MTA officials: “You are losing hours of productivity” because of the agency’s own work rules on elevated subway lines. Kluger said the rules were costing the MTA $10 million a year.

“I was surprised at the extent of the downtime,” Kluger said.

Some 450 workers are assigned to repairing elevated tracks and other facilities and, under MTA rules, are permitted on elevated lines only from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. as safety precautions and to avoid disrupting service during morning and eveningrush hours.

Maintenance is regularly performed at night on underground tracks, but Transit Authority rules bar any night work on outdoor elevated lines because of safety concerns.

Kluger has suggested the Transit Authority schedule more work on weekends along with other recommendations, a move not popular with the Transport Workers Union. There are fewer work rules on weekends.

Officials of the New York City Transit Authority, which operates buses and subways, said they had scheduled discussions with Local 100 officials on increasing track maintenance work on weekends.

Straphangers have long complained about what they see as poor subway service on weekends because of maintenance, which disrupts and slows normal schedules.

Finding time for maintenance is a problem in New York City since the subways run 24 hours, a situation that exists in few such transit systems worldwide.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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