Iconic New Yorkers Voice Subway and Bus Announcements


Keep your ears open for Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg, Fran Leibowitz, Cam’ron, Michael Kay and more famous New Yorkers making announcements on subway platforms and buses thanks to @NewYorkNico. (Courtesy of Twitter)

When the pandemic first began, Nicholas Heller, better known by his Instagram handle @NewYorkNico, began scouting different ways to help New York City amid cries that “New York City is dead.” Heller began sharing the stories of struggling New York City small businesses to attract customers with the hashtag #MomNPopDrop. The project aided many small businesses’ survival, like the Punjabi Deli, who, thanks to Heller, reached their $50k goal on GoFundMe. Now, Heller is furthering his commitment to bring joy to New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Partnering with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), starting Feb. 12, rather than hearing the dull Charlie Brown adult-esque sounds typically uttered over the loudspeakers, 25 famous New Yorkers are voicing subway and bus announcements to uplift commuters and encourage passengers to wear masks and social distance while riding public transportation.

Heller introduced the project on his Instagram in November asking his followers what iconic voices they would like to hear. The suggestions ranged from the Wu-Tang Clan to Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, these people could not be obtained for the project, but the riders will hear Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg, Edie Falco, Pat Kiernan and Awkwafina (who already voiced stops on the 7 line in Jan. 2020). Heller was even able to win over Fran Leibowitz to record an announcement over Zoom, who is famously resistant to using modern technology like cell phones and computers. 

Heller, his team and the voices scripted their announcements to be unique to each New Yorker’s signature. In one of the teaser clips, actress Debi Mazar, in her thick Brooklyn accent, sternly tells riders to “make your motha proud” and offer their seats to elderly riders. You can hear her at Carroll Street station. Rapper Cam’ron’s voice is at 149th Street station announcing, “Check it out, it’s Harlem’s own Killa Cam.” You can also hear talk show personalities Desus & Mero tell you to wear a mask at Clinton Avenue, and Whoopi Goldberg at Court Square Station. Take the 4 from Fordham downtown to the 14 Street Union Square station and you’ll hear Jerry Seinfeld encourage social distancing because not only is it safe, but “think how much you’ll save not needing cologne!” There are plenty of other voices to hear, so keep your ears open for Fordham alum sportscaster Michael Kay’s “See ya!,” rapper Jadakiss’s signature laugh, rapper Fivio Foreign’s “grrt baow!” and more.

Better yet, no one was compensated for participation in this project. Heller and the celebrity voices are solely aiming to brighten New Yorkers’ daily commutes through the city. The MTA has been at the center of the concern regarding the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. Most New Yorkers use public transit, and the enclosed and often congested structures can feel like a COVID-19 incubator. Subway ridership plummeted when New York shut down in March. Since then, the subways have slowly started to fill again, but many riders are still concerned about their safety amid the pandemic The MTA has faced even more scrutiny this past week, with violence on the subway increasing. In their press release, they stated, “The reimagined announcements are aimed at injecting a dose of authentic New York swagger into the system and providing a morale boost and some much-needed humor for customers returning to the system as New York begins to recover from the pandemic.”

The New York City subway system needs revitalization, and hopefully, this project can be the first step toward greater improvements.