Could New York ban masks on the subway? Here’s what you need to know.

Governor. Kathy Hochul is considering banning the wearing of masks on the New York City subway, fearing that such coverings could protect the identities of those who commit hate crimes.

Interviewed on CNN Wednesday evening, Ms. Hochul was asked if she supported Jewish leaders’ call to ban masks. She said she would consider reinstating a pre-pandemic ban on wearing masks on the subway.

MS. Hochul reiterated his position at a news conference in Albany on Thursday, saying state officials “will not tolerate individuals using masks to evade responsibility for criminal or threatening behavior.”

His comments come as New York City continues to be the scene of constant protests that began after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in October 2017. 7 and with a rise in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic hate crimes. Yet with state charterers adjourning their operations for the year, it was clear that she could enact such a ban.

“My team is working on a solution, but in the subway, people should not be able to hide behind a mask to commit crimes,” Ms. Hochul said Thursday.

The governor acknowledged that enacting a mask ban would most likely require legislative action. But the Legislature finished its 2024 session on June 8, and participants aren’t expected to return to Albany until January.

“I think the governor has gotten ahead of herself,” said Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat and deputy majority leader in the state Senate. “This is not something that has been seriously discussed with Parliament. I think it’s a very serious proposition with all kinds of ramifications that may have nothing to do with what she’s trying to make.

Mr Gianaris added that the increase in anti-Semitic acts in the city was worrying but that regulating what people wear when the risk of contracting Covid-19 persisted was not the solution. He called questioning what people wear on the subway “very perilous.”

MS. Hochul acknowledged that there are “legitimate reasons” for people to wear masks on the subway, including their religious beliefs and fears of getting sick with Covid or the flu. People who cover their faces for these reasons would be exempt from the ban, she said.

It was not immediately clear how such a distinction would be applied, since any rider could cite a religious or medical need to wear a mask.

Covid cases have recently increased in the city, with the number of daily cases doubling over the past month. This increase was fueled by two sub-variants of Covid-19, LB. 1 and KP. 2, both of which are offshoots of the JN.1 strain that dominated cases in winter and spring and still accounts for about 40 percent of circulating cases.

Although on the rise, the number of cases in the city remains much lower than last winter and September. The rising numbers — along with the ubiquitous sneezes and coughs that echo across New York every May, when tree pollen fills the air — may have prompted some subway riders who had stopped wearing masks to start again.

This week, vandals attacked the Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak’s home in Brooklyn Heights, smearing red paint and graffiti across the entrance to her building and hanging a banner accusing her of being a “white supremacist Zionist”.

The episode follows a protest Monday that began on Wall Street and ended with a flood of demonstrators in the Union Square subway station, where an unmasked man asked other people in a crowded car to “stand up.” hand if you are a Zionist.” Three people were arrested for fare evasion, police said.

Masks were common at protests on college campuses this spring, with many participants saying they covered their faces out of fear of online harassment and other potential consequences of the protests.

Mayor Eric Adams said in a radio interview that protesters who covered their faces were “cowards.” He summoned the Reverend. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying that “Dr. King did not hide his face when he marched and for the things he thought should not go into the country.”

“I think now is the time to go back to the pre-Covid situation, where you shouldn’t be able to wear a mask at protests and on our subway,” Mr. Adams said.

New York banned masks in 1845 in response to protests in the Hudson Valley after farmers dressed up as Native Americans and attacked their landlords. The state’s ban was the oldest in the country until May 2020, when Andrew M. Cuomo, the governor at the time, repealed it at the height of the pandemic. Mr. Gianaris said the initial ban was a response to “a very different environment than what exists today.”

“These cases are horrific and we must respond to them and react aggressively, because we cannot tolerate anti-Semitism,” he said. “But we need to be more specific in our policy restrictions than just a blanket ban on people covering their faces.”

Grace Ashford And Joseph Goldstein reports contributed.

Leave a Comment