After more than a half-dozen attacks in trains and stations over the holiday weekend, New York’s latest plan to combat both crime and homelessness in subways went into effect Monday.
Mayor Eric Adams’ plan, announced on Friday, calls for more police, mental health clinicians, and social service outreach workers to be stationed in subways. Adams spokesperson Fabien Levy announced on Monday that a “phased-in” implementation would begin.
According to the plan, many people who use the subways for shelter require assistance rather than handcuffs. However, it states that police will crack down on sleeping, littering, smoking, doing drugs, or loitering in the system. It calls for the removal of all passengers from trains at the ends of their lines, a policy that has waxed and waned over time. “What happened this weekend cannot be normal,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesperson Aaron Donovan said Monday, emphasizing the need for the new strategy. The subways are managed by the state-controlled MTA.
“Those who would prey on New Yorkers riding public transportation should get the message that it will not be tolerated,” he said.
Levy, on the other hand, cautioned New Yorkers not to mix “isolated acts of violence on the subways” with “the issues of assisting those experiencing homelessness that the mayor’s plan directly addresses.”
Adams, a Democrat and former transit police officer who was elected last month, stated on Friday that allowing people to live on subways is “cruel and inhumane” to them and unfair to other riders and transit workers. “The days of turning a blind eye to this growing problem are over,” said Adams, a former New York City police captain who ran a public safety campaign.
However, Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless, warned against “criminalizing homelessness and mental illness” and suggested that the city was reverting to failed policing strategies.
In recent years, the city has vacillated between responding to concerns about crime in the subways and complaints about excessive policing in the subways. The previous mayor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, occasionally added more cops to the system. Adams did, too, just a few months ago. In the weeks since, however, a woman has been pushed in front of a train and killed beneath Times Square, a man has been shoved onto the tracks and injured at a major hub in lower Manhattan, and even the mayor has stated that he does not feel entirely safe riding the nation’s busiest subway system. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it carried more than 5 million riders on an average weekday; the weekday average is now around 3 million.
Six people have been stabbed or slashed in subway stations or trains since Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the new safety plan on Friday, according to the New York Police Department. Two female teenagers were arrested in one of these attacks, accused of slashing a 74-year-old man in the face, pushing him to the ground, and stealing his cell phone Saturday afternoon after arguing with them while smoking on a train.
Around 12:30 a.m. on Monday, the Presidents Day holiday, a 58-year-old man was arrested on charges of pursuing another man with a hatchet in a Brooklyn subway stop where police were stationed. According to police, the victim, who managed to avoid the swinging hatchet, had inquired as to why the attacker was staring at him.
A man hit a woman in the face with a metal pipe aboard a subway train in the Bronx about two hours later, according to police. The woman, who declined medical care, told officers the man lashed out after asking her to stop talking with a friend of hers. No arrest has been made in that case.