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Banning Food on Subway Wouldn't be Fair to Riders, Mayor Says

 Mayor Bill de Blasio riding the subway in 2014.
Mayor Bill de Blasio riding the subway in 2014.
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Mayoral Photography Office

NEW YORK — Hizzoner doesn't mind a little subway snacking.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he isn't in favor of banning food on the city's transit system — something the MTA is considering as a means to prevent fires caused by trash on the subway tracks, following a blaze Monday that snarled service.

"I don’t think it's fair to people to say you can't eat on the subway," de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference in Long Island City Wednesday, noting that busy New Yorkers sometimes have to chow down on the train.

"From 1979 to 1999, I did not own a car and got around almost exclusively by subway — it would have been in those years inconceivable to not be able to eat on the subway, just because of life," the mayor said. "Because we’re all incredibly busy in the city, because the time on the subway is often the only time you have to eat."

A day earlier, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said the agency was considering a program that would give riders "recommendations about what foods are appropriate" to eat on the subway, following a track fire that injured nine people and disrupted service on the B and D trains Monday morning.

"These fires all start with trash being thrown down there," Lhota told reporters. "The goal is no fires, plain and simple."

The mayor agreed that track fires are "a real concern" but said he favors informing straphangers over policing their eating habits.

The MTA asks riders not to eat on the subway, but the transit agency's rules of conduct do not specifically prohibit it.

"I think we have to educate people and create some more enforcement. I think we have to, in a lot of ways, encourage people to not be sloppy when they're on the subway," de Blasio said.

"But I can't imagine, personally, the idea of people not being allowed to eat on the subway in a place as busy as this."

The idea of curbing eating on the subway has been trotted out before.

In 2012, Lhota when was MTA chairman the first time, he came out against a bill in Albany proposed to ban eating on the transit system, according to The New York Times, that time the reason was to reduce the rat population in the subway.

He told the newspaper that for many city children the subway is the place where they eat breakfast.

"I do not support the bill," he said "It severely hurts and impacts minority communities. I don't want to deny the kid the only time that day he's going to get food."