As homelessness and crime rates snowball in New York City’s subway system, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) to develop a sanitation plan for one of America’s oldest and one of the world’s largest transportation infrastructures on Wednesday.
Despite the fact that the city’s homeless have been taking shelter in the subway system for decades, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he is pushing for the MTA to close 10 stations and with the aid of the New York Police Department, move homeless citizens into shelters in order to disinfect the transportation system for essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’re relieved on behalf of our customers and employees that the City has agreed to do more to provide safe shelter for homeless New Yorkers but it should not have taken a global pandemic for the City to do a job the MTA has called on it to do for years,” MTA spokesperson Abbey Collins wrote in a statement to Gothamist.
The MTA is currently disinfecting stations twice a day as well as all train cars every 72 hours, according to Ken Lovett, a senior advisor to the MTA. Furthermore, Lovett said the agency will provide the plan as requested on Thursday, April 30.
At his daily Coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, Cuomo held up a Daily News paper with a snapshot of the rampant homelessness in the New York subways. Cuomo added the train cars were “filthy and disgusting and had homeless people living on them with all of their belongings.” The governor added that despite a 90% drop in ridership during the pandemic, crime has increased, CNBC reported.
The governor and mayor have displayed their thoughts on the issue but have so far not proposed any concrete solutions. Despite De Blasio’s call to temporarily close down stations, the MTA does not agree with the mayor’s plan and have refused to close terminals between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The transit agency has taken to hiring 150 private security personnel due to a lack of support from the NYPD and city social workers, Collins wrote.
In an Op-Ed for the New York Post, the interim head of New York City Transit Sarah Feinberg wrote that the agency will be changing its code of conduct to further the effort to criminalize sleeping and loitering in the subway system.
“We are changing our Code of Conduct to make it abundantly clear that the transit system must be used by people for transport only — not for sheltering, sleeping, storing belongings or panhandling. We will enforce these new regulations in close coordination with our NYPD partners and the MTAPD,” Feinberg penned.
“The Mayor should get out of his car and into the subways so he can see what is really going on and solve the problem of his own making,” Collins said.