Cuomo demands action on homeless in the subways a day after MTA celebrates on-time milestone

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the MTA Board of Directors to address the increasing problem of homelessness on the subways.
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The MTA announced a “major milestone” Thursday that subway on-time performance hit 81.5 percent in June, the first time it’s been above 80 percent in nearly six years.

MTA Chairman Patrick Foye pointed to the Subway Action Plan launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former MTA boss Joe Lhota as the reason for “more than six months of sustained improvement” in the subway system.

One day later, Cuomo demanded more.

The governor fired off a letter on July 12 to the MTA Board of Directors urging them to address the increasing problem of homelessness on the subways.

In 2018, there were 1,771 homeless people living in the subway, but that number surged to 2,178 in 2019, an increase of 23 percent according to the MTA’s own statistics, and trains were delayed 659 times in 2018 by homeless people who were walking on the tracks, and engaging in disruptive and dangerous behavior including blocking train doors, something Cuomo called a “staggering 54 percent increase from the 428 homeless related delays in 2014.

“New Yorkers are unfortunately accustomed to having homeless issues on trains and in the terminals during the winter months, but this has now become a year-round phenomenon,” Cuomo wrote. “Homeless people often pose a danger to themselves and others. This is another example of a problem long discussed but short on constructive progress. The discussion has had the NYPD point to the MTA and the MTA point to the NYPD. Let’s end that exercise and point forward.”

Cuomo demanded the MTA develop a comprehensive outreach plan that coordinates MTA personnel, social service providers and shelter and supportive housing providers to help the homeless out of the system and into safe, supportive environments.

“There is no ‘reinvention of the wheel’ necessary in this case,” Cuomo wrote. “Society serves no one by allowing homeless individuals who need help to inhabit the subways. Let’s actually focus on helping the homeless, rather than political posturing. This is not an issue for helping the homeless or the subway riders; that is a false choice. We must serve both.”

City Hall and the MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cuomo added that if the MTA needs more police or social service providers they should make that adjustment now.

“Change is possible. Two years ago the system faced a crisis, and with the Subway Action Plan we aggressively implemented a centralized emergency management system that sowed that, despite the bureaucracies’ resistance to change, with a new way of doing business, real progress could be achieved,” Cuomo concluded. “While bureaucratic change always brings disruption and controversy, for the MTA, the unwillingness or inability to change continues the status quo and ensures failure.”

This story first appeared on QNS.com, one of our sister publications.

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