Mayor Adams, Governor Hochul unveil plan to help homelessness in NYC subway system

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Saturday, February 19, 2022
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CeFaan Kim has more on the new plan to help homelessness on New York City subways.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday unveiled a new plan to deal with homelessness and crime in the New York City subway system.

It may be the most ambitious effort in decades to tackle crime and homelessness in the transit system.

NYPD officers patrolling the subways will be expected to enforce the MTA's code of conduct, including a multitude of criminal and non-criminal offenses like sleeping onboard trains and carrying piles of trash and possessions. Police will be expected to issue summonses, once again, for fare-beating.

WATCH: President of Passengers' United discusses the new plan:

Transit crime is up 65% this year, with 267 incidents so far compared to 167 last year.

The new Subway Safety Plan will expand response teams throughout the city, adding trained clinicians to connect people with resources, and direct NYPD officers to enforce MTA rules such as sleeping across multiple seats, exhibiting aggressive behavior to passengers, or creating an unsanitary environment.

Passengers will be expected to exit their trains at the end of the line-and will be escorted off, if necessary. The trains and stations will be patrolled by police and mental health professionals in joint outreach teams. Housing placement processes will be streamlined and access to psychiatric hospital beds will be expanded.

The plan also calls for changes to state and federal laws to connect more New Yorkers to needed care and support, as well as additional safe havens, drop-in centers and stabilization beds to ensure the homeless have short- and longer-term options.

Mayor Adams started the press conference by saying that being there makes him think of his days as a transit cop.

"We are back again, and it's imperative we have the right response that has the combination of being humane but clear," Adams said.

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Adams said helping the city recover from the pandemic starts with the subway system.

"Public safety and justice are the prerequisite to prosperity," Adams said. He noted that he wants tourists to feel safe so that they will continue to visit the city, shop, and help the economy.

As for everyday New Yorkers who use the subway to commute, "Who wants to start their day that way with the level of despair right in front of them?" he said.

He vowed that that protecting New Yorkers remains his top priority.

"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," Adams said. "The days of turning a blind eye to this growing problem are over, and I look forward to collaborating with the state, the federal government, TWU, advocates, and law enforcement to solve this challenge. It will take time, but our work starts now."

He attributed the homeless crisis to "a decade of failures," saying that "We have to dam the river of failures."

The Subway Safety Plan includes:

--Deploying up to 30 Joint Response Teams that bring together DHS, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, NYPD, and community-based providers in high-need locations across New York City.

--Training NYPD officers in the subway system to enforce the MTA and New York City Transit Authority's rules of conduct in a fair and transparent way.

--Expanding Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division "B-HEARD" teams to six new precincts, more than doubling the precincts covered to 11. These teams will expand on the already-successful pilot of answering non-violent 911 mental health calls with mental health professionals.

--Incorporating medical services into DHS sites serving individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Expanded DHS Safe Havens and stabilization bed programs will offer on-site physical and behavioral health care to immediately address clients' needs.

--Immediately improving coordination across government with weekly "Enhanced Outreach Taskforce" meetings that bring together senior leaders from 13 city and state agencies to address issues quickly.

--Creating new Drop-in-Centers to provide an immediate pathway for individuals to come indoors, and exploring opportunities to site Drop-in-Centers close to key subway stations to directly transition individuals from trains and platforms to safe spaces.

--Streamlining the placement process into supportive housing and reducing the amount of paperwork it takes to prove eligibility.

--Calling on state government to expand psychiatric bed resources and amending Kendra's Law to improve mental health care delivery for New Yorkers on Assisted Outpatient Treatment.

--Requiring -- instead of requesting -- everyone to leave the train and the station at the end of the line.

"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," Hochul 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. We must work together to keep our subways - the lifeblood of New York City - safe for all riders, and to get help and services to those in need."

She agreed with the mayor and police commissioner that the existing rules need to be enforced to ensure safety.

"There are rules that have been ignored for far too long," Hochul said.

The governor said that people on the street come up to her and say, "'We want the old New York back, we don't feel safe anymore,' and that hits me in my heart."

It all comes as violent crime in the subways is surging. Some of it, at the hands of the mentally ill and emotionally disturbed.

Noel Quintana is the gory face of violent subway crime.

Slashed from ear to ear, he was carved by a blade while riding the L train in Manhattan.

More than a year later, his scar is still healing - but only his scars on the outside. Inside, he is still traumatized.

"If I see some razors or blades, I shy upon it, and I don't look at it - especially on television," said Quintana.

With violent crime surging on the subway, so is fear of riding the train.

Quintana says he has not taken the train since his attack, and will never ride the train again.

A 22-year-old man was stabbed by a homeless man Thursday afternoon on an "L" train between Williamsburg and the East Village, and last month, Michelle Go was killed when she was pushed in front of an oncoming train by a homeless man in Times Square.

Jacquelyn Simone of the Coalition for the Homeless applauded the expanded services. But says much of the policy is misguided.

"Maybe some people will access the care that they need through this this proposal, but many more people will probably be facing summonses and fines and pushed out of sight or moved from the subways to the streets where they're exposed to the elements or arrested and sent to Rikers Island," Simone said.

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