NYC subway safety plan includes cops, outreach workers, mental health experts

Mayor Eric Adams announced details Friday to his first effort to clean up the city's increasingly dangerous subway stations by removing the homeless and enforcing transit rules.

"We are going to ensure that fear is not New York's reality," said Adams at the Fulton Street subway station, flanked by Gov. Kathy Hochul and other officials.

The new approach will consist of "people, places, and policies."

Teams made up of outreach workers, cops, and mental health experts will be deployed into subway stations across the five boroughs to try to convince homeless and mentally ill people to accept help including housing and support.

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"The subway plan is a comprehensive civic strategy that will do more than a temporary fix," said Adams.

It includes the following steps:

  • Deploying up to 30 Joint Response Teams that bring together DHS, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, NYPD, and community-based providers in high-need locations across our city.
  • Training NYPD officers in the subway system to enforce the MTA and New York City Transit Authority’s rules of conduct in a fair and transparent way.
  • Expanding Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division "B-HEARD" teams to six new precincts, more than doubling the precincts covered to 11. These teams will expand on the pilot of answering non-violent 911 mental health calls with mental health professionals.
  • Incorporating medical services into DHS sites serving individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Expanded DHS Safe Havens and stabilization bed programs will offer on-site physical and behavioral health care to immediately address clients’ needs.
  • Immediately improving coordination across government with weekly "Enhanced Outreach Taskforce" meetings that bring together senior leaders from 13 city and state agencies to address issues quickly.
  • Creating new Drop-in-Centers to provide an immediate pathway for individuals to come indoors, and exploring opportunities to site Drop-in-Centers close to key subway stations to directly transition individuals from trains and platforms to safe spaces.
  • Streamlining the placement process into supportive housing and reducing the amount of paperwork it takes to prove eligibility.
  • Calling on state government to expand psychiatric bed resources and amending Kendra’s Law to improve mental health care delivery for New Yorkers on Assisted Outpatient Treatment.
  • Requiring — instead of requesting — everyone to leave the train and the station at the end of the line.

The training session for the teams, the NY Post reported, began last week while recruitment began last month. Officials have been reaching out to licensed psychologists and social workers to volunteer for the program.

Starting next week, the teams will be in action in high-priority areas. 

"They will prevent people from riding the trains back and forth all night," said Adams.

There will also be an increased presence of NYPD on trains and in stations that will be enforcing transit rules including not allowing "barbecues."

Psychiatric beds closed during COVID will be re-purposed to house some homeless and mentally ill.

This comes in direct response to transit crime exploding in New York City which has surged more than 65% so far this year, according to the NYPD, compared to the same time period last year.

On Thursday afternoon, a 22-year-old breakdancer was stabbed on a Brooklyn-bound L train. Police sources say the suspect is homeless and is still at large.

"We’re seeing people with mental health issues that are not only dangerous to themselves, but they’re dangerous to others. And we’re walking past them every day until they carry out a particular action that leads to violence," said Adams a day earlier.

Calls for action have been particularly loud ever since the fatal subway shoving of Michelle Go. The 40-year-old was pushed beneath the wheels of an R train in the Times Square subway station on January 15.

The person responsible was allegedly Simon Martial, a homeless man with a history of mental illness.

"That's the common denominator we're seeing," said Adams.