Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams rolled out plans for a police subway surge Saturday aimed at making the city’s 3.6 million underground straphangers feel safe on the trains while delivering aid to the system’s homeless population.
Hochul — under attack from GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin over rising crime in an election contest polls show is tightening — promised additional money to increase the number of MTA and NYPD officers on trains and station platforms.
“We will do whatever it takes to make our subways safer for riders,” Hochul said of the “Cops, Cameras and Care” program aimed at addressing the intertwined problems of crime and the mentally ill homeless.
Hochul and other officials promised an additional 1,200 overtime police shifts per day to combat rising subterranean crime. The MTA will also place unarmed guards at certain subway stations to increase security and halt fare-beaters.
In addition to the expanded police presence, Hochul and Adams touted previously announced plans to put more cameras in subway cars, and a new plan to move the homeless and mentally ill people from the subway system to two new dedicated 25-bed units at psychiatric care centers.
In another twist — reported by the Daily News last Monday — subway conductors will announce to straphangers when they are arriving at a station with officers present.
“I won’t rest until the subway is a safe place for all,” said Adams, a former Transit Police officer. “People are saying over and over again, ‘We don’t feel safe’ ... Visibility in the system plays a critical role.”
A 15-year-old boy killed last week on a Queens subway train was the system’s eighth homicide of the year, with NYPD Transit Bureau statistics showing a 33% increase in robberies and a 16.5% rise in felony assault and New Yorkers feeling skeptical about the system’s safety.
“I don’t feel safe on the trains,” said straphanger Wendy Vargas, 29, of Woodhaven. “Actually, I feel very unsafe. There’s no protection. Anything can happen at any second. I think they should provide these new mental health services.
“Just yesterday, there were two men screaming at the top of their lungs outside my station. Like, why?”
Tony Saur, 20, of the Bronx, expressed a lack of confidence in the new initiative.
“It’s going to be the same thing,” said Saur, a daily subway rider. “New York never changes ... You barely see cops down there. I saw them twice in the last week.”
”You never know who is standing next to you. It is very unsafe,” said Edgar Cardona, 42, as he stood on the downtown-bound platform of the No. 1, 2, 3 station at W. 96th St. and Broadway on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
As he waited, Cardona warned a friend: “Get away from the edge of the platform.”
“I have to take the train every day. I’m tired of the madness,” he said.
The program will additionally deploy MTA police at four major subway stops — Grand Central, Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal and the Sutphin-Archer Station — to free up roughly 100 city officers to work at other priority transit locations.
There will also be a component of training for police officers to deal with people suffering from psychiatric issues, said Hochul. And the mayor said the bottom line was addressing both the “perception and reality of safety,” noting the increased police presence would also deter fare evaders often responsible for subway crime.
Adams noted the arrest of a gun-toting fare dodger in Brooklyn only a few days ago, the second in one week.
MTA chairman Janno Lieber endorsed the new plan as more riders return to the system.
“Subway ridership has surged since Labor Day, and we remain focused on growing rider confidence through increased deployment of uniformed officers, cameras installed in every subway car and further progress on quality of life issues,” he said.
The plan quickly came under attack from the Police Benevolent Association, the city’s biggest police union.
PBA president Patrick Lynch blasted the plan as “unsustainable,” noting the department is currently more than 1,000 officers below its budgeted headcount.
“The increased workload is crushing the cops who remain,” he said. “The answer is not to squeeze them for more forced OT. And it’s definitely isn’t replacing them with unarmed security guards.”
Adams said earlier that he believed the multi-pronged new program will address the concerns of New Yorkers.
“This effort will help with two things New Yorkers desperately want,” he said. “The addition of hundreds of strategically-deployed officers on our trains and help to those suffering from serious mental illness, so they can find a way out of the subway system.”
With Mark Stamey