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Students win LIRR poster contest aimed at promoting wearing of face coverings

Eric Shu, 16, a rising senior at Great

Eric Shu, 16, a rising senior at Great Neck South High School, was one of five winners of a poster contest sponsored by the Long Island Rail Road on the importance of wearing masks. Credit: MTA

Four students from Long Island and one from Queens won a poster contest sponsored by the Long Island Rail Road to stress the importance of wearing masks when riding the rails during the COVID-19 pandemic, the MTA announced Friday.

The "Wearing Face Coverings on Trains and at Stations" contest attracted 25 entries from New York grade school students. 

The youngest winner, 9-year-old Amberlyn Berry-Rowley of West Hempstead, drew a brightly colored mask with the message "smart brains wear me on trains."

"Not enough people are wearing masks," said Amberlyn, who will be a fifth grader in the fall at George Washington Elementary School in West Hempstead. 

Eric Shu, 16, of Great Neck, said it's critically important that LIRR customers wear a mask because face coverings prevent the virus from spreading. His poster featured a train arriving at the platform, picking up two passengers wearing face coverings and the message "My mask protects you. Your mask protects me."

"Many rush hour trains could be crowded as people return to work and there may be less room to social distance," said Shu, who will be a senior in the fall at Great Neck South High School. "A lot of places on the railroad could be really cramped such as Penn Station and Atlantic Terminal. It's really important to stop the spread and that includes on public transport. Yes people should use and can take public transport but they have to take precautions when doing so."

The other winners were Aaron Gilbert, 12, of Weber Middle School in Port Washington; Lorelai Thrasher, 15, of Malverne Senior High School, and Faateen Asad Ankush, 12, of P.S. 11 Kathryn M. Phelan School in Woodside, Queens.

The contest ran June 8-30. The winning entries will be featured on the MTA's website and social media accounts.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made the use of masks or other face coverings mandatory throughout the MTA's system in an April executive order. And while the MTA says about 95% of passengers wear some form of face coverings, some passengers have raised safety concerns about the inconsistent use and enforcement of the mask requirement.

Protective masks have been a central focus of LIRR leadership as it works to attract customers back to the rail system, whose ridership has been decimated by the pandemic.

At the height of the outbreak in April and May, the LIRR was carrying just 3% of its usual riders. That number since has climbed to 16% with the gradual reopening of New York, according to the railroad’s most recent figures.

In a Newsday webinar in May, MTA chairman Patrick Foye said the railroad would count on “firm, but gentle, peer pressure” among riders to enforce the facial covering policy. In “a limited number of cases,” LIRR personnel could intervene, Foye said, adding that riders will not be arrested or removed from trains for failing to comply.