NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The homeless have taken over a recently rebuilt park and plaza in the Bronx.
The busy area has reportedly become a 24-hour hangout spot and police haven’t been able to make a difference.
Rats are having a field day, in the middle of the afternoon, in Fordham Plaza. They’ve even been caught on cell phone video climbing around on homeless people while they’re passed out on plaza benches.
The recently renovated transit hub has quickly become a destination for the destitute and drug users. People who live and work in the area want help.
“I want it stopped,” Kathleen Phillips said. ”We have rats the size of cats over here. We have people sleeping, they bring beds.”
Phillips added she’s afraid to show her face around the plaza because some of the vagrants are allegedly aggressive.
“When I have to come down here and be accosted by people looking for money and then stepping over needles and nasty bodily fluid it’s disgusting. It’s like a third world country.”
The Metro North station – part of a major commercial and transportation hub in the Fordham section – is also used by local high school and college students.
Commuters say that the homeless use this staircase as a public bathroom.
“When I go upstairs to my office, I literally spray my shoes with Lysol,” Phillips added.
Complaints continue to mount and calls to police are increasing. Officers have reportedly been called to remove the homeless throw their things into trash cans, but the moment cops leave, the vagrants return.
“It upsets me because there’s a school in the building, a high school right down the block, the kids walk by see all the needles, the zombies on the K-2,” Chris Cordero explained.
CBS2 demanded answers from the mayor’s office, the MTA, and Department of Homeless Services. All claim the strategy is to send outreach workers to the area.
“The minute the police leave they come back… Is the strategy working? Does it need to be changed?” CBS2’s Marcia Kramer asked the NYPD.
“Some of the areas in the city there is a persistent problem we have to work with the precinct commanders and department of homeless services,” Commissioner James O’Neill said.
“I’m not sure the strategy should be changed, I think we need to promote the strategy,” Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison added.
“It’s clearly not working. Is there something new you can try?” Kramer replied.
“I’ll reach out to the commanding officers that cover the area and see what else we can do,” Harrison said.
Police say they have conducted 333 homeless encampment cleanup operations so far this year. A spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio says they will send out a multi-agency team next week to address the issue.