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78% say NYC subway not safe at night, 24-point bump since 2017, poll shows

NEW YORK — New Yorkers’ views on public safety and quality of life in the city dimmed dramatically between 2017 and 2023, with 78% saying last year that they did not feel safe riding the subway at night, according to a poll published Tuesday.

Overall, 30% of New Yorkers graded the quality of life in the city positively, down 21 percentage points from 2017, said the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission, which polled more than 6,600 city households in the fall. The commission last conducted the comprehensive survey in 2017.

Andrew Rein, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, said the new poll carried a simple message: “There’s a lot of progress that’s needed for New Yorkers to feel good about living in New York.”

In a striking data point reflecting growing anxiety about subway safety, New Yorkers reported feeling only slightly safer riding the subway in the daytime last year compared with riding the subway at night in 2017, the commission found.

In 2023, 49% of New Yorkers said they felt safe riding the subway during daylight hours, a staggering 32-point drop from 2017, the poll results showed. In 2017, 46% reported feeling secure on the system after nightfall, according to the data.

The distressing data points came with some caveats — 2017 marked a high-water moment for public safety in the city in the modern era. It logged just 292 homicides that year, bottoming out after falling from more than 600 annual homicides in the early 2000s, according to Police Department data. The NYPD logged 391 homicides last year, recording a decrease for the second straight year.

Still, the data reflects challenges facing Mayor Eric Adams, who ran for office in 2021 on pledges to improve public safety and other city services.

And it underscores the difficulties both Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have as they seek to soothe anxieties that the subway system is out of control. The poll was conducted before this winter’s spate of sensational subway crimes, which crescendoed with a chaotic brawl and shooting on a rush-hour A train in downtown Brooklyn last week.

Earlier this month, Hochul ordered 750 National Guard soldiers into the subway to check bags and boost commuters’ sense of security. But critics have suggested the military presence could instead reinforce the sense of lawlessness underground.

Above ground, fewer New Yorkers are satisfied with a suite of government services. The survey found the share of residents satisfied with the cleanliness of their neighborhood dropped 13 points since 2017 (to 34%); the share content with garbage pickup slipped 9 points (to 57%); and the share satisfied with rat control fell 18 points (to 27%).

In a report published with the poll, the Citizens Budget Commission said the “focus of Mayor Eric Adams’ Administration by and large aligns with New Yorkers’ priorities.”

“However, the gap between how New Yorkers rate the quality of life and City services now and their past ratings is huge,” the report said. “A great deal of progress needs to be achieved to return to prior levels of satisfaction.”

Adams — a moderate Democrat who has prioritized public safety, fighting rats and improving trash collection — swept into office vowing to deliver better services to New Yorkers.

“There is a covenant between government and the people of our city,” Adams declared in his election night speech in November 2021. “You pay your taxes; we deliver your tax dollars through goods and services.”

“We have failed to provide those goods and services,” he added, vowing to reform the system.

But two years later, many voters do not seem to believe he has kept his end of the bargain.

In the new survey, 11% of city residents said they thought the city spends tax dollars prudently, down from 21% six years earlier, when Mayor Bill de Blasio was in office. The share of respondents who gave positive grades to city services overall dropped from 44% to 24% over the same period.

The poll also logged a 14-point drop from 2017 to 2023 in the share of respondents who said public safety in the city was good or excellent.

Still, violent crime rates have been falling in the city after Adams took office at the start of 2022.

He said New York City is the safest big city in the country. And he downplayed the extent to which seven-year shifts in polling attitudes reflect on his two-year-old administration.

“People say my priorities are in order,” Adams said at a news conference Tuesday. “Public safety, space, getting rid of rats — all the things I talk about.”

“We are on the right track,” Adams added. “The goal is to continue on that right track.”

Rein agreed with the mayor that 2017 was a categorically different time. But he emphasized that the data shows many New Yorkers remain unsettled by the state of their city as the pandemic recedes in the rearview mirror.

“It would be extremely cynical to look at these ratings and to think that New Yorkers are OK,” he said.

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