City, state team up on transit troubles

Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams are teaming up to restore public confidence in the subway system.

In Wednesday’s State of the State address, Gov. Hochul touched on an initiative to get teams of social service workers and mental health experts into the subways to reduce the numbers of homeless below ground.

Hochul went into more detail Thursday at Manhattan’s Fulton Street subway station. She was joined by Mayor Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who said the plan dovetails with theirs to greatly increase  police presence underground to stop crime.

“[W]e’re going to create teams of trained professionals, who will be embedded here, who develop relationships, develop trust and allow us to face the issue of chronic street homelessness with a plan,” Hochul said, according to a transcript sent by Adams’ office.

“We’re going to get them the support they need, get them into shelter and ultimately into housing. So, we’re going to have what we call our state-funded SOS teams, Safe Options Support. What does that mean? These are individuals who work hand-in-hand with New York City outreach teams, this is what has to happen.”

Hochul said she was planning to sign a request for proposals to form such teams, each with eight to 10 people.

“These are medical professionals, they’re social workers, outreach people ... who understand the very deep human needs that lead people to need more help than they’re getting. Because, as I said yesterday, I believe we can and will do better. It’s that simple. We have no choice but to act.”

As of this story being posted, Hochul’s office since Thursday had not responded to requests for information on how Albany would pay for the initiatives listed in the State of the State speech and its more extensive printed book. Likewise, she offered no discussion of cost for the SOS program before turning the podium over to Adams.

Hochul also did not address what would happen under her plan when the homeless refuse to head to a shelter or refuse offers of treatment. Under the de Blasio administration, the homeless who refused help, even those suffering from obvious mental illness or who were outside on winter nights in life-threatening temperatures, were not routinely removed against their will.

Adams took a none-too-veiled swipe at their predecessors.

“[P]eople miss the fact that the coordination that’s taking place in Albany and New York is allowing us to just get stuff done,” he said.

“I was a transit cop in this station almost 30 years ago,” Adams said. “And I remember this station and I remember the challenges before they rebuilt the location. I remember riding these trains, I remember during the high crime period of high crime time when people were afraid to utilize our system. Graffiti was everywhere. And there was just a feeling that the system was out of control. Today, we are saying we are not going back there.”

Adams has said repeatedly there can be no economic recovery without a restoration not only of public safety, but of people’s confidence in public safety. He said addressing crime and homelessness in the subways requires separate but coordinated efforts.

“Far too often, those critical periods when people have lost their jobs, lost their homes or, going through some form of health care crisis, if you don’t reach them at that critical period, it will take a longer investment to turn their lives around,” the mayor said. “And we want to do so at that critical period with proven methods and research. That’s the team we’re building. They understand this line of work, they are committed to getting it right and we’re going to do that. This new plan also frees up our police officers to focus on crime and not be the street sweepers of sweeping men and women who are homeless of our system. Nowhere is that more important than the transit system.”

Adams said the SOS program will allow police officers to focus on crime and prevention.

“We want to ensure that tourists and others are safe on our subway system, and that’s why this important partner of assuring that our transit system is safe,” he said. “So as we head into the new year with this recovery, we must restore public trust in our transportation system, and I will say it over and over again, that trust comes with public safety. We are going to add hundreds of daily visual inspections from existing police manpower. That’s the goal, how do we better utilize our police force.”

Adams and Sewell said that means getting more uniformed officers away from desk jobs and having the subways, stations and platforms patrolled by more than just those officers assigned to transit units.

Transit District 20, for example, with  headquarters in the E-F Briarwood subway station on Queen Boulevard, patrols all Queens subways except for the A line. Adams and Sewell said now precinct officers on their routine patrols and others will be tasked with dropping in to check stations along their beats, adding extra sets of eyes and more visibility for the public

“That’s the omnipresence that I knew as a rookie cop,” Adams said. “When you walk through that train and the public sees you, they feel the level of confidence that the system is a safe place to be. Subway riders will see our officers on that patrol and ready to respond if needed.

“This vision for the subway system means that additional NYPD officers from the Transit Bureau, from Patrol Services Bureau, and from other special units will be will be reinvigorated to work in tandem for the same goal to deter crime and getting the assistance people need to them as quickly as possible,” Sewell said.

“There will be hundreds of new visual inspections on the trains throughout each day and night. New Yorkers will witness uniformed officers presence in the transit system, both on platforms, in and out of trains, riding the trains to cover as much ground as possible.”

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