Homeless people riding the subways will now be forced to leave the train at the end of the line and police will ramp up enforcement against spitting, laying down and littering on subways, Mayor Eric Adams announced at a press conference Friday with Governor Kathy Hochul, unveiling the second phase of their subway safety plan.
“No more smoking, no more doing drugs, no more sleeping, no more doing barbecues on the subway system,” Adams said, at a press conference at Fulton Street subway stop Friday morning. “No more just doing whatever you want. No, those days are over … The system was not made to be housing, it’s made to be transportation.”
Adams said people who reach the end of the line will be told they have to leave, and “End of the Line” teams that include police officers will be forcing them to do so. Those patrols will begin on the A,E,1,2 N and R lines, according to NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who added an additional 1,000 police officers are already on patrol throughout the system each day.
NYPD officers will have a direct mandate to enforce rules against lying down, sleeping, or outstretching, spitting or littering, aggressive behavior towards riders, smoking or open drug use, according to the new plan.
It also calls for adding 490 safe haven and “stabilization” beds — shelters that provide mental health treatment — as well as the creation of new drop-in centers for homeless people at key subway stations through a $100 million state investment. Along with police, the city will dispatch 30 joint response teams that include homeless services and health department workers to conduct outreach to homeless people on the subway.
Police have often used force to arrest and detain homeless people riding subways. Advocates for the homeless said they were alarmed by the mayor and governor’s announcement Friday, fearing that the broader housing goals of the plan would take far longer to implement, while the police enforcement could essentially ramp up overnight.
“We are terrified about what is to come,” said Josh Dean, Executive Director of Human.NYC. “Aggressive NYPD targeting of homeless New Yorkers does not solve homelessness — it just moves it. We need to take an entirely different approach, centered around housing, around compassion, and around building trust. We cannot more strongly condemn today’s plan and the dehumanizing rhetoric that accompanied it.”
Dean pointed to the 2020 Hope Count that reflected months of overnight subway closures during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic where homeless people were made to leave the subways. While fewer New Yorkers were counted on the subways that year, more were found living outside on the streets.
Advocates also raised concerns about the plan's proposed expansion of the Kendra's Law, a state statute on the books since 1999 that allows courts to force people into psychiatric treatment. A 2005 analysis of the law by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest Report found Black people were five times as likely as white people to be court-ordered into treatment, and 85 percent of the people who received court orders had no history of violence, only a history of psychiatric hospitalizations.
"Current statutes provides ample legal authority to transport and involuntarily hospitalize those who endanger themselves or others," said Shelly Nortz, with the Coalition for the Homeless. "Expansion of the legal criteria will not solve the problem and could result in pushing people in need further away from care."
The new plan also is reversal of a 2020 police put in place by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had scaled back the use of police officers in homeless intervention during the height of social justice protests that year.
The mayor and governor’s announcement follows a series of high-profile violent incidents that have put many in the city on edge. On January 15th, Michelle Go was fatally shoved onto the subway tracks allegedly by Martial Simon who spent years cycling in and out of hospitals, psychiatric wards and homeless shelters before the attack, the New York Times reported. There were several officers on patrol at the Times Square station at the time of the incident.
“This is not about arresting people,” Adams said, insisting the plan would be carried out with compassion for the most vulnerable New Yorkers who live on the street. “This is about arresting a problem.”
This story has been updated with additional information.