Feinberg: MTA may hire more police officers to address subway homelessness

A subway car stands empty during the Coronavirus outbreak on April 13, 2020 in New York City.
Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images
By 1010 WINS

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- The MTA may hire more of its own police officers to address homelessness in the subways if New York City is unable to send more NYPD officers and outreach workers in to address the issue, NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg said in an interview with 1010 WINS. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday asked the MTA to do “whatever it takes” to move homeless people out of subway cars and into shelters in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In an interview with 1010 WINS’ Susan Richard Tuesday afternoon, Feinberg said Cuomo was “absolutely right” when he said that allowing homeless people to sleep in train cars was “disrespectful” to essential workers who ride the subway. 

“Look, this is a population that desperately needs housing services, that desperately needs mental health care and counseling services. And… we’re a transportation agency. We run a subway system, and a bus system. We are not a social services agency,” Feinberg said. “If we’ve got folks in the system who desperately need help, they’re not able to get what they need from us.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio asked the MTA to shutter 10 terminals overnight each night as part of an effort to both sanitize cars and address the issue of homelessness in the subways. 

Feinberg on Tuesday afternoon said she was “pleased that the mayor has stepped up and has started addressing the problem,” but maintained “closing a subway station isn’t what solves the problem, because then, on top of everything else… you have an issue with… essential workers who need the system.” 

De Blasio should “send the NYPD and his outreach workers into every single end-of-line station by the end of the week,” Feinberg said. 

“And look, if the NYPD and the city can’t do it, I got it. You know, people are overwhelmed, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. We will go hire more MTA police to get this done if we have to,” she said. “But I believe that the city can do it, and if the city can’t do it, or won’t do it, we’ll hire MTA police to do it.” 

Asked how the MTA was planning for the eventual reopening of New York City, Feinberg said the agency is “looking at security, we’re looking at social distancing, we’re looking at service, we’re looking at our own workforce and making sure that we’ve got adequate crews to service the ridership as it picks up.” 

“Just in the last several weeks… we’ve hired dozens and dozens of private security guards, because, frankly, we need more eyes and ears in the system,” she said. “You know, like everyone else, we’ve had lots of MTA police out sick and on quarantine. NYPD officers are out sick on quarantine.” 

“And so we’ve hired private security contractors to come in and help,” she added. “So, safety and security is at the forefront of what we’re thinking about right now.”