Photos taken by transit workers and provided to Eyewitness News show what's happening. While the absence of ordinary commuters makes the homeless more visible, critics say they are seeking refuge in the system in greater numbers.
"That is disgusting what is happening on those subway cars. It's disrespectful to the essential workers who need to ride the subway system," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.
The Governor, who controls the MTA, has been determined to keep the transit system open, so that essential workers would be able to get to their jobs in places like hospitals and grocery stores.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would step-up its outreach efforts and suggested closing down several end of the line stations overnights to discourage the homeless.
"The MTA just has to say yes and we can together do something really important to reduce the number of homeless people in the subways and get them the help they need. I'm asking the MTA to join us in that effort and let's get to work on it together," de Blasio said.
The MTA rejected that proposal.
"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," said an MTA spokeswoman. "Our mass transit system is the lifeblood of New York City and it has never been more important."
The mayor says the city is stepping up efforts to relocate homeless out of the system and into shelters.
"You can't just take someone and arrest them because they're homeless, and that's not what New Yorkers would want and it's not legal," de Blasio said. "We have to work with homeless people to get them off the streets once and for all, and the NYPD's actually been outstanding both above ground and below ground contributing to the HOME-STAT effort."
He says 200 extra shelter beds are now available for subway homeless.
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