NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea says hundreds of cops will be needed to enforce restricted access to all 472 subway stations as the MTA does an unprecedented shutdown of service from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., a new normal for the duration of the pandemic.
Although no definitive figures of how many police officers will be needed or cost estimates for the city, Shea expects more details to emerge at the Tuesday meeting, just hours before the scheduled shutdown.
“This is something that’s never really been undertaken to this scale, I expect it to be fluid and we will learn from tonight and as we go forward try to develop a system that’s as efficient as possible to get the job done with a minimum number of officers,” Shea said in a Tuesday press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Hundreds of officers will be deployed tonight.”
But while the story of the overnight shutdowns to happen on a nightly basis remains mainly on disinfecting for the MTA, social distancing and removing homeless people from the system remain the main objective for Governor Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio.
On de Blasio’s part, however, the city Department of Homeless Services’ HOME-STAT approach to offer resources to homeless New Yorkers will not change despite only bringing 2,000 people in off the streets over the last three years while the total homeless population has remained between 60,000 and 70,000 citywide.
But to de Blasio, 2,000 people was no small feat and the shutdown was only a better opportunity for outreach teams.
“The HOME-STAT Initiative has brought in over 2,000 people off the streets and kept them off the streets, which has never happened before in the history of the city,” the mayor said on Inside City Hall Monday night. “We’re applying that same strategy, but here’s the disruptive piece that I think so important… By disrupting [patterns of homelessness on subways], four hours a night where that can’t happen anymore our homeless outreach teams will be there, NYPD outreach teams will be there to make sure that there’s the maximum chance of getting people to come in and stay in. So I think it actually triggers a whole different reality.”
For Cuomo, social distancing on subways is currently possible with low ridership due to COVID-19, but once people again start trusting the subway system the opportunity to stay at a safe distance may diminish.
“You can socially distance now on the subway because ridership is down 92%, but when the subway is up and running, I don’t think you will be able to stay six feet apart.”
MTA and the governor have been adamant that the 24/7 subway service, a hallmark of New York City life, will resume once the coronavirus is significantly beaten back, a timeframe for when that will be is still in the realm of terra incognita.