June 7, 2021 By Allie Griffin
The MTA Inspector General released a report last week detailing a pattern of neglect among its workers tasked with inspecting elevated subway tracks.
The MTA released the results of a year-long investigation, which was launched following a series incidents in 2019 of large debris falling from the elevated subway tracks. Many of those incidents took place on Roosevelt Avenue in Sunnyside and Woodside.
The audit found that seven MTA employees failed to perform mandatory track inspections and falsified inspection reports.
The seven employees were suspended shortly after MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny uncovered their behavior in December.
Her office initiated the investigation in January 2020 after reading numerous news reports of debris falling from elevated subway tracks like the 7 train line. No one was hurt, although several cars were damaged.
However, local leaders expressed concern at the time, saying that the loose debris could have killed someone.
During a March 2019 press conference, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said the only reason no one had died from the falling debris was pure luck.
The OIG investigators became suspicious of MTA staff when they couldn’t understand why the problem wasn’t identified during regular track inspections. That prompted them to suspect that some MTA workers were skipping the mandatory inspections.
Pokorny said the workers put the public in danger.
“It is appalling that so many track inspectors, on so many occasions, skipped safety inspections, filed false reports to cover their tracks, and then lied to OIG investigators about it,” Pokorny said in a statement. “Management needs to utilize a technology that will ensure supervisors can verify when inspectors do their job – and when they do not.”
Six of the seven workers who were suspended are prohibited from performing track inspections for five years and received a final warning that similar missteps could result in termination, she said.
The investigation also found that supervisors exhibited insufficient oversight over the work of track inspectors.
Van Bramer has repeatedly drawn attention to the safety issue of unsecured elevated tracks. He said the report confirms what his office had suspected.
“The new report from the MTA’s Inspector General shows what we’ve all known for too long – the falling debris under the 7 line was dangerous and the MTA did not do nearly enough to make us safe,” he said on Twitter.
The MTA, prompted by criticism, spent nearly $16 million in 2019 to attach netting underneath the elevated tracks to catch the debris before it hit people.