NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An apparent subway shanty at Herald Square has been cleared out following an investigation by CBS2.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, in the tunnels under the streets of New York City, an old problem is coming back: the homeless driven inside by the cold, and in some cases appear to create encampments.
Last week, CBS2 found a homeless hot spot in the corridor that links the 34th Street-Herald Square subway station to the PATH station.
The underground camp of sorts featured shelters made of boxes, cartons of clothes — a pop-up community that’s not always inviting, especially to people with cameras, Brennan reported. One man even threatened to smash a CBS2 camera if they didn’t stop taping.
And throngs of commuters trudge through the corridor every morning.
“It seems like it’s getting worse over the last couple of weeks. (They come and they go?) Well they’re here in the morning for sure and they’re mostly here in the afternoon,” said Mike.
“Yes, they are a nuisance and sometimes they drive you crazy, but the city has got to find some place or something to do with them. This is New York, they are all over the place,” said Rick Flattes.
So CBS2’s Brennan wanted to know why authorities haven’t done anything about it, and went to Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Adam Lisberg for answers.
“The homeless numbers in the city are up, and that’s why. And then the subway system is part of the city,” he said.
Lisberg added that you can’t simply clear out homeless people.
“It’s not illegal to be homeless. It’s not illegal to smell bad in the city,” he said. “It’s illegal to take certain actions that block other people from being able to use the transit system or from being able to get around.”
Lisberg said it’s a difficult call for MTA employees and police officers.
The MTA has a dedicated unit to the homeless, and said in 2015 alone 568 people were placed in shelters, a 933 percent increase over last year.
The idea is that simply arresting the homeless doesn’t work, Brennan reported.
“They just move along. They just move to a different location, sometimes a harder to find location,” said Patrick Markee, with the NYC Coalition for the Homeless. “And it doesn’t really solve the problem. It doesn’t really address their needs, and that’s why we really need to be approaching this as a housing and mental health problem. Not as a police problem.”
When CBS2’s Brennan went back to the 34th Street corridor Monday afternoon, the homeless who were there in the morning were gone — apparently cleared out.
So the tunnel is clear for now, but people who walk through there all the time said the homeless would be back in a few days, Brennan reported.