Elected officials are calling for a new approach to the mental health crisis plaguing the city’s subways, most recently resulting in four attacks the led to the deaths of two homeless people on the A train in the last 48 hours.
On Sunday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez – chair of the Transportation Committee – called an expansion of social services coordinated with NYPD enforcement that takes officers away from clerical tasks and making transit and street police efforts more synchronized.
“One thing is clear. Our current approach to handling suffering subway crime isn’t working. It is failing. We need to immediately rethink our outreach program, and that’s why today we are calling on a four point plan to address this crisis,” Adams said. “We need to be ahead of the problem, and not responding to the problem. That should not take subway cars filled with blood. Before we realize that we have a crisis that is unfolding in our subway system…This is a public safety crisis and if we don’t get this under control immediately we are going to really stagnate in our desire to return our city to a level of normality. The subway system is the lifeblood of our city. So, individuals should not be you losing their lives on that system, it sends the wrong message.”
The recommendations also include revising the 311 system so in order to file a complaint an address is no longer needed so they can apply to the transit system as well as “strengthening” kendra’s Law in Albany which allows court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment.
If the administration does not adopt these recommendations, Rodriguez said, City Council will work to legislate aspects of these changes.
“This is a plan that makes sense. It doesn’t take much money. And this is about saving lives and sending the message to all New Yorkers and as more visitors keep coming to New York City, as we are controlling the COVID-19, that it is safe to use our subways,” Rodriguez said.
Earl Phillips from Transport Workers Union Local 100 and Rodriguez pressed the MTA to reopen 24 hour service to cast more eyes on the system so New Yorkers and employees can report suspicious activity.
“Let’s get more folks in the subway system and crime will go down and we need another agency down here to take take care of these people who have a mental health issues,” Phillips said.
After the four stabbings along the A line between the northern terminus in Manhattan and all the way to Queens, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea order a surge of 500 officers to be deployed throughout the transit system until an arrest was made. And cops announced that they believed they had the right man on Sunday morning, having charged Rigoberto Lopez, 21, of Brooklyn, with murder and attempted murder.