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Mayor Eric Adam and Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a subway safety plan that will remove homeless people from the city’s subways, starting next week. In a press release, the leaders said: “New York City subways are the lifeblood of our city. They connect millions of working people to our jobs, homes, and neighborhoods every day, and help visitors from all over the globe explore the greatest city in the world. Yet for too long, our subway system has also confronted a painful humanitarian challenge playing out right in front of our eyes. Too many New Yorkers experience homelessness in our stations and our trains each night.”
The clear message was that if New Yorkers are not traveling, they should not be in the subway system. “We will state without reservation that our subways exist to move paying customers from one point to another. They are not meant to house individuals or provide recreational space, and we will make it clear our stations and trains are not intended – or available – as an alternative,” they said in their statement.
The plan will be carried out by 30 new Joint Response Teams, which will bring together the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the New York City Police Department (NYPD), as well as community-based providers. Particular attention will be paid to the main transport hubs. There will be outreach teams at Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, West 4th Street, the W42nd Street Corridor, the Fulton Street Corridor, and Jamaica Center. In partnership with the MTA, the City plan to reintroduce “End of the Line” exits for all individuals still aboard at a train’s final stop. “The final stops on our subway lines are one of the best moments to engage those experiencing homelessness, and over the past two years the State and City have found success reaching people in that moment,” they said in their statement.
The response comes a month after Michelle Go was killed at Times Square when she was pushed in front of a train by a homeless man with a history of mental illness. The man was subsequently charged with her murder.
All officers working in New York’s transit system will now have a mandate to enforce the MTA and New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA)’s rules of conduct. These rules include the prohibition of:
• Lying down, sleeping, or outstretching in a way that takes up more than one
seat per passenger or interferes with fellow passengers
• Creating an unsanitary environment by spitting, littering, and more
• Exhibiting aggressive behavior towards other passengers
• Using the subway system for any purpose other than transportation
• Smoking or open drug use
The mayor stressed that efforts will focus on helping to transport individuals in need of shelter to a safe refuge. “Our Subway Safety Plan addresses the gaps in the system where too many have been lost. This plan recognizes that helping a person off our streets is only the first step of what the City can and must deliver – and it outlines a three-part system that will seamlessly transition New Yorkers in need of care from: 1) outreach to 2) initial housing and mental health care to 3) permanent housing and community,” the city said in the release.
Adams told the press assembled at Fulton Street Subway Station: “No more just doing whatever you want. Those days are over. Swipe your MetroCard, ride the system and get off at your destination,” and adding: “The Subway Safety Plan is how we’ll get the greatest mass transit system in the world back on track.”