NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — After weeks of ugly finger pointing about an increase in the number of homeless on the subways, Mayor Bill de Blasio has offered a solution he calls a “game changer,” but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority doesn’t want to play ball.
A video recorded early Tuesday morning by an MTA employee of 19 homeless people on a single “M” train is just one of many stark images confronting subway riders during the coronavirus pandemic — homeless people turning the subways into underground shelters.READ MORE: Gov. Cuomo Asks AG Letitia James, Top Judge To Launch Probe Into Sexual Harassment Allegations
De Blasio, who often says it’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo who runs the subways, is finally accepting responsibility, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“The state runs the MTA, but the city has a big piece of this, too,” de Blasio said.
The mayor proposed a fix — stopping the homeless from riding around the system in an endless loop by closing 10 end-of-line stations from midnight to 5 a.m. for cleaning.
“This will be a game changer, Marcia. We just need the MTA to say yes. It’s not hard,” de Blasio said.
During his Tuesday media briefing up in Syracuse, Cuomo admitted it’s a problem and even held up the front page of the Daily News, spotlighting the issue, but he offered no solution.READ MORE: 2nd Co-Op City Power Outage Affects Residents In Same Buildings That Lost Electricity Friday
“This is disgusting what is happening on those subway cars. It’s disrespectful to the essential workers,” Cuomo said.
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The Transit Authority’s acting head, Sarah Feinberg, said she’ll consider all options, but doesn’t think closing stations is the answer.
“Technically, closing stations, I don’t think that’s the right call at this moment,” Feinberg said.
She said the solution is to have cops and outreach workers at transit hubs to cope with the problem, just as they did at one station on Tuesday morning.
“We need the NYPD, we need the city’s outreach workers, we need the Department of Homeless Services in those stations with us. I need the mayor to say that he’s going to those folks in every end-of-line station by the end of the week,” Feinberg said.
The transit workers union is also opposed to the mayor’s plan.
“That will pose an inconvenience to our riders and workers,” said TWU Local 100 VP Eric Loegel. “The homeless should be escorted from the system and taken somewhere, to a shelter, a hotel, ideally housing.”MORE NEWS: Police Arrest Connecticut Man They Say Attacked Ambulance Facilities With Molotov Cocktails
All of this comes as the mayor slashed a billion dollars from a program to build affordable housing — fewer apartments for low-income New Yorkers and the homeless.