At least two named NYPD officers suggested in writing that police drop by the subway stations Mayor Bill de Blasio visited on Sunday morning and “sweep the station[s] for homeless persons,” but never actually conducted such a sweep, and made the suggestion without any direction from City Hall.
Or, someone “with an axe to grind politically” used the names of those NYPD officers to fabricate an email that the NY Post then published.
These are the two possibilities that the Mayor’s Office says explain a series of stories the Post ran that claim police cleared all the homeless out the 4th Avenue/9th Street and Jay Street—MetroTech subway stops before Mayor de Blasio hosted an eight minute and thirty second press conference on a moving F train Sunday morning.
“I haven’t seen any directive given and if it was given it shouldn’t have been,” the mayor told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “I ride the subways all the time, there’s no sweeps. So, look, I know you guys like to focus on things like this, if someone’s doing it because they have an axe to grind politically, God bless them, but that’s not the policy. The policy is not to do sweeps, I get on the subway whatever is happening on the subway I’m gonna experience it with everyone else.”
The first of the Post’s stories, “Homeless booted from subways so de Blasio could have ‘clean’ ride,” ran hours after the mayor’s Sunday subway ride, and put the tabloid in the awkward position of treating the homeless like human beings who don’t deserve to be thoughtlessly purged out of sight.
Eric Phillips, a spokesperson for the mayor, pointed out that de Blasio spoke with a homeless man outside of the Jay Street—MetroTech station, and said that the Post’s unnamed sourcing on the stories were proof that it was false.
Another Post story ran on Monday night, this time with more “law-enforcement sources” reading from an email that directed police to perform the sweep. The Daily News, with their own anonymous police sourcing, wrote a story Tuesday night claiming the Post’s story was false, though the sources did concede that “any time the mayor is travelling the location in question is checked for potential security issues.”
The Daily News' police official said it was “possible the homeless were mentioned,” but “there was no order to get them out of the stations.”
On Wednesday, the Post published the email in full. Written by a Transit Bureau Officer Nandoo, it directs officers to “sweep the [4th Avenue] station for homeless persons as well as the Jay Street station.” The email notes these orders come at the direction of Transit Bureau Sergeant James Lynch. City Hall is forwarded on the email.
Asked on Wednesday if he would find out who at the NYPD ordered the sweep and why, the mayor told the reporter:
I don’t care, my friend, because it does not matter, read my lips: I don’t care. It’s an irrelevancy. It’s either a fraud, because someone’s just trying to stir the pot and give the NY Post something to write about, or if it happened, it shouldn’t have happened, and we’ll make sure people know in the future that it’s not the right thing.
On Twitter, Phillips has maintained that the story isn’t true. "Some cops, purportedly, talking about doing something is not cops actually doing something," Phillips tweeted.
Some cops, risking their jobs, talking about doing something. Or "ghost cops." Or someone with an axe to grind.