New York Gov. Considers Banning Face Masks on Subways

People wearing masks ride in an R subway train in New York City on Nov. 16, 2020. Credit - Gary Hershorn—Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is considering banning face masks for riders using the city’s subway system because she has received reports of antisemitic incidents perpetrated by people wearing masks.

During a news conference Thursday, Hochul said she had started speaking to lawmakers about the possibility of drafting a bill. But she acknowledged that the issue was complicated, since many people wear masks for health, religious, and cultural reasons. The governor said she was looking into this issue after “a group donning masks took over a subway car, scaring riders and chanting things about Hitler and wiping out Jews” on Monday night.

That wasn't the only incident that's happened, though, as the governor's office said that incidents involving masked individuals making threats on the subway have been widely reported.

“We will not tolerate individuals using masks to evade [responsibility] for criminal or threatening behavior,” Hochul said during the news conference. “My team is working on a solution, but on a subway, people should not be able to hide behind a mask to commit crimes.”

“There’s obviously a problem here,” she added.. “This will be dealt with.”

Read More: New York’s Mayor Wants to Make People Take Their Face Masks Off Following a String of Robberies

Hochul said if a bill was drafted, there would be “common sense exceptions.”

While many people have stopped wearing face masks since the number of COVID-19 cases have declined, others still use them in public settings, including on the subway. Masks were required for subway riders during the pandemic, up until September 2022.

“I assure everyone, we understand how complex this issue is,” Hochul said. “And we’re just listening to people and addressing their needs and taking them very seriously. So we’ll be reporting more on that in the near future as well.”

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