NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While there’s so much focus on having people stay off the streets during the coronavirus pandemic, there’s another big problem happening underground.
Homeless people are taking over the subway.
The city says it’s taking action, but concerned Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees are demanding more, CBS2’s Christina Fan reported Sunday.
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A video of a No. 2 train shows the city’s subway system looking like a homeless shelter. It was taken early Sunday morning by an MTA employee, and it shows car after car of people sprawled out sleeping.
Train operator Yann Hicks said he is fuming about having to work in these unsanitary conditions during a pandemic.
“The virus is going back and forth, back and forth in dirty trains with people, homeless, and everybody with no masks on. There’s a problem here,” Hicks said.
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Hicks said the trains have been taken over by the homeless. Most aren’t wearing masks and many have no access to hand sanitizer or soap. He said he’s worried the virus could be festering without proper cleaning.
“You look at the videos of Times Square. It’s empty outside. You look at the videos all over the place, it’s empty because everybody’s underground. There’s a whole city of people underground,” Hicks said.
The MTA told CBS2 it has taken aggressive action to address the crisis over the last three weeks, making more than 1,700 contacts with homeless in the subway and convincing nearly 100 to accept services.
“The City of New York, which is legally obligated to house all individuals who are experiencing homelessness, needs to take bold steps to provide a safe haven for our most vulnerable New Yorkers during this unprecedented public health crisis so the subway is not used as a shelter of last resort,” MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan said in a statement.
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On Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the opening of 230 new safe haven beds to house the homeless.
“These are the kinds of beds and facilities that help us get people immediately off the street, who have reached that point where they’re ready to finally come in and accept shelter and change their lives and, hopefully, never, ever go back to the streets,” de Blasio said.
But employees say the videos prove conditions are still disastrous. They are pushing for more drastic action.
“I think they should shut down at least from like midnight to 5 and clean up the trains, clean up the areas where the employees are. Get it all fresh and ready for the next day of essential workers,” Hicks said.
The MTA said as of now trains are being disinfected every day with the full fleet completed every 72 hours.