By Guamacice Delice
New York City subway riders are divided on the success of City Hall’s plan to remove unhoused people from trains and stations. Some have praised the plan and measures that go with it, while others doubt that it will be driven to its defined purpose.
“It is a good idea to shelter those people into a safe place and take care of those with mental issues,” said Ellen, an E train rider. “But the plan should not be dropped along the way.”
During a news conference, Mayor Eric Adams outlined a plan to remove unhoused people from the subway system. He was joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul and other city officials. The plan is to deploy at least 30 teams of police officers, social workers, and clinicians within trains and stations to apply established rules and remove permanent occupants.
“The days of just doing anything in subway trains are over,” according to Adams. “It is cruel and inhumane to allow unhoused people to live on the subway, and unfair to paying passengers and transit workers who deserve a clean, orderly, and safe environment.”
“Beginner speech,” said Ellen’s husband, Fred. “I don’t believe it at all, and I have already heard about this in my life.”
“The plan includes comprehensive investments in short- and medium-term solutions, including expanded outreach teams with the NYPD officers and clinicians, additional housing and mental health resources, and outlines long-term systems improvements through changes to state and federal laws to connect more New Yorkers to the care they need,” according to a statement on the website nyc.gov.
Making New York City safer for residents, visitors and investors was one of the mayor’s campaign promises. During his presentation, he evoked complaints from passengers about their fear of using the system. 30 people were pushed onto the tracks in 2021, up from 20 in 2019 and nine in 2017, according to The New York Times citing police statistics.
“The component that is about enforcing certain subway rules, such as sleeping across multiple seats, exhibiting aggressive behavior to passengers, or creating an unsanitary environment should be a long-term work,” Xavier, a F train rider, said.
Many citywide entities are involved in implementing this plan, which is built on a recent state policy. “For too long, our mental health care system suffered from disinvestment, and the pandemic has only made things harder for New Yorkers with serious mental illness who are experiencing homelessness,” the governor said. “I am proud to stand with Mayor Adams and share our efforts to boost mental health treatment services for those who lack stable housing and bring more psychiatric beds online.”
First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo explained that, “…the plan outlines several ways that we can begin to address the challenges of supporting those with mental illness and keep our city safe. Our administration looks forward to working with our state partners to provide much-needed resources for those experiencing homelessness and serious mental illness on our city’s subways.”
While more than 500 new beds in private rooms will be created as part of the plan, the estimated number of people living in trains and subway stations is between 1300 and 1700.
Xavier praised the project for relocating people and paying for their medical care instead of forcing them onto the street. “To me, the society set aside those people,” he said. “It would be justice to take care of them, take them back, reinsert them into normal life.”
York student Julius Drake agreed that the plan is beneficial for both subway riders and the homeless people it is designed to address. And while Drake said he believes that most unhoused people are harmless, he acknowledged that there should not be any person living in an unhoused condition.
Since January, the city has deployed 1,000 additional police officers throughout the subway system.