SEE IT: Strangers applaud MTA workers who keep NYC moving during coronavirus crisis
New York City’s frontline transit workers have risked their health to move the public during the coronavirus pandemic. At a bus depot in Harlem, a group of them have received some much-deserved love for their bravery.
Bus operator Kenneth Perez, 54, was leaving the Manhattanville Bus Depot in West Harlem on March 27 when he was surprised by thundering applause from the Riverside Park Community apartment complex, which neighbors the depot.
“I got off of work and I’m walking in front of the depot and I was by myself and all the sudden I start hearing the pots and pans banging and people screaming ‘thank you,’” said Perez, who recorded the event on his cellphone. “It was shocking to me.”
The support has continued ever since when workers are spotted coming and going from the depot, said Tracey Young, Transport Workers Union Local 100′s vice chair for the depot.
“One person at their window will start making noise, then another will join in, and then everyone starts,” said Young. “That’s our neighbors. That’s our people.”
New Yorkers across the city have organized rounds of applause for health care workers throughout the pandemic. The cheers usually erupt at 7 p.m., when many hospitals change shifts.
But Perez, a 22-year veteran bus operator, said he’s never noticed that kind of public support for transit workers.
“We went through 9/11. The bus operators, we drove down to help after Hurricane. Katrina. It snows, it rains, we’re out there. But I never hear anything for the bus drivers,” said Perez. “I always hear things for fire and police, but to see that support for us that day was just surreal for me. It was really special.”
Perez shot his video a day after the Metropolitan Transportation Authroity confirmed Oliver Cyrus, one of Perez’s colleagues at the Manhattanville depot, had died from coronavirus.
The spread of the virus through the MTA’s workforce has drastically limited the agency’s ability to run full train and bus services.
At least 22 agency employees have died from the disease, and more than 3,000 have been directed to self-quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.