Brooklyn Boro

Adams takes on problem of homeless in subway

Also seeks to beef up police presence underground

January 6, 2022 Raanan Geberer
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Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday turned his attention to the problem of crime, and the situation of homeless people, in the subways.

He said he would deploy teams of social workers and other professionals to deal with the homeless. This tactic, he said, would free the cops to deal with hard-core subway crime.

While the subway stations with the greatest homeless population are in Manhattan, such as Grand Central and Times Square, terminal stations at the end of a line, such as Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue and Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn College, are also high on the list, the New York Post reported in September. 

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Indeed, in May of 2020, when the subway system closed in the early morning hours due to COVID-19, most of the effort in getting the homeless out of the station and into special heated buses centered on Coney Island, the Eagle reported at that time.

Speaking at the Fulton Street station in Lower Manhattan, Adams recalled that he had to deal with homelessness within the transit system first as a child, when he was close to homelessness himself, and second as a Transit Police officer.

Mayor Eric Adams arrives at City Hall via subway in his first day on the job. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

“Graffiti was everywhere and there was just a feeling that the system was out of control,” the mayor said. “Today we are saying we are not going back there.”

To begin his program of using professionals to interact with the homeless, Adams said he would deploy five “Safe Option Support” teams of eight to 10 people each.

In addition, he said, police officers, not only those stationed in Transit Bureau but also those from above-ground units, will go into the subway daily to inspect the scene and make sure everything is OK. 

He especially said he would use officers who are currently working behind a desk. “They were hired to patrol the city, not to patrol the computer screen,” Adams said.

“When’s the last time you saw an officer walk through a train?” the mayor said. “When you walk through that train and the public sees you, they feel that level of confidence that the system is a safe place to be.”

Not only safety but perception of safety is important, for both city residents and tourists, he added. If police officers are visible underground, people will feel more safe and will be more inclined to use the transit system.

“Safety throughout the subway system remains a top priority for the NYPD,” said Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell. “This comprehensive new approach is centered on having more police officers on train cars and listening because NYPD officers do not just respond to crime in our city, they prevent it and deter it.”

Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance said, “New Yorkers live on our subway because of a shortage of housing and healthcare. The lasting solution to transit homelessness is also the humane one. At the end of each and every day, New Yorkers now living in public space need homes to call their own.”   

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