By Sarah E. Feinberg
For New Yorkers, the transit system is one of the constants in our lives. All of us have a unique connection to the subways and buses, and we feel it deep in our bones– from those who just arrived, to those whose families have called the city home for generations. Whether you’re an essential worker getting through the daily commute, a transit worker carrying this city through both dark days and good times, or the lucky creative superstar who’s hit the big time, the transit system is a part of us all.
The pandemic has reminded us that New York City Transit does so much more than just move people around this city safely and efficiently for less than the price of a slice – although we’re very proud of that fact. We’re also one of the few remaining places where folks from all walks of life sit side by side, look at each other, and rely on something together. We’re the mascot of the city: resolute, resilient, and vibrant. And, while not always perfect, we’re always striving to be better. Just like any New Yorker.
This pandemic has foisted unfathomable challenges on us, but it is not in New York City Transit’s DNA to do anything but rise to the occasion – whether that means continuing to run essential service, helping to revitalize the economy or lifting spirits. Indeed, as New Yorkers begin looking ahead to a new, brighter day, the subway and bus system will be a big part of our city’s comeback. And we are greeting that new day by inviting a host of iconic New York voices into the system for the first time ever.
With the help of the city’s “unofficial talent scout,” New York Nico, we’ve recruited more than 25 iconic New Yorkers to record announcements for subway station platforms and the buses. These voices include Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Desus and Mero, Awkwafina, Edie Falco, Michael Kay, Cam’ron, Jadakiss, and more. And we brought them into the fold with only one directive: to be themselves, in all their rich, complicated, very real, New York glory. Inviting iconic New York voices into the system is not only a celebration of the city and our transit system—and the people that make up both— it’s a way to remind New York that this system belongs to all of us.
A few weeks ago, we unveiled a memorial paying tribute to the colleagues we tragically lost to COVID-19. They now number more than 140 – a number too high for any of us to bear. The memorial has provided a much-needed opportunity for all of New York City to take a minute, step back, and reflect on these individuals – the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons – who sacrificed everything to keep New York moving. We created this tribute because it is essential that we have opportunities to honor our fellow New Yorkers, and to grieve as a community.
But it is equally important that we not lose sight of what makes us who we are as a city. We can’t just remember each other when we’re gone; we should celebrate each other while we are here, celebrate who we are as a community, and most importantly, we have to keep going. After this pandemic, if there’s anything that should symbolize “keeping going”… well, it’s New York City Transit. And it’s New York.