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Union: Subway station cleaning shifts going unfilled

The MTA has reduced cleaning  at the 103rd street subway stop on the No. 1 Train at times. (Brian Driscoll)

Tight finances has prompted the MTA to leave dozens of cleaning shifts empty everyday, making for piles of trash at some subway stations, transit union officials said.

“It’s just filthy. Does anyone ever clean here?” asked Stephen Fink, 67, a frequent user of the 103rd St. station on the No. 1, where food wrappers and bottles littered the platform one recent evening.

In recent months, when a cleaner calls out from work, NYC Transit has increasingly left those shifts empty rather than pay overtime. On a Monday earlier this month, 138 cleaning shifts had vacancies, with less than a fifth of them getting filled through overtime, according to transit documents.

Unfulfilled duties include day-to-day cleaning, deeper scrub downs and garbage pickup on the rails at major hubs like 34th Street, Times Square and 14th Street, the documents show. The problem is especially bad at night and when it snows, as cleaners sometimes have to shovel, union official said.

“We’re not asking for tea service. We’re just asking for clean stations,” said Paul Piazza, a union representative.

In addition to the overtime cleaning cutback, the MTA is eliminating 83 of its 2,700 car and station cleaners this year to save nearly $6 million. The agency scheduled a training class for 40 cleaners last month, but it was canceled with no new classes for the “foreseeable future,” Piazza said.

MTA CEO Jay Walder agreed keeping stations clean has been a problem and said improving conditions would be a priority despite the agency’s bad finances. Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges said they will soon release a plan for more thorough station cleaning, but transit does not expect to hire new cleaners.

“It’s money saving. That’s what we have to do,” he said.

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