The MTA is again in the crosshairs of a debate on how to deal with homeless people sleeping or resting in the subway system. On Friday, someone whom the MTA referred to as a “junior” employee responded to a tweet asking why benches were being removed from the 23rd Street F / M subway station. The employee, who used the initials JP, wrote to the commuter concerned that the benches had been removed to “prevent the homeless from sleeping on them”.
The tweet was soon deleted and the MTA refused to say why the banks were removed.
A screenshot of the Twitter exchange, which has since been deleted, shows New York City Transit and explains that benches were removed because homeless people slept on them.
In a statement, MTA spokesman Abbey Collins wrote that the tweet was mistakenly published, adding, “The subway is no substitute for an animal shelter, and homeless New Yorkers deserve much better care. We have worked with the city on this important issue, asking for more dedicated mental and medical resources that are desperately needed to resolve the homeless crisis exacerbated by the pandemic. “
However, she refused to say how many benches were system-wide removed in the past year, or whether the benches were removed to prevent the homeless from using them, the tweet said.
While the MTA has accused the city of doing nothing more to tackle the ongoing housing crisis in which both recently and chronically homeless New Yorkers have taken refuge in the subway system, it also has its own efforts to keep people away To keep you from spending the night, don’t hide excess time in the system either. The removal of the benches at 23rd Street station might just be the most recent example.
Last February, the MTA removed the back of the subway benches. When Governor Cuomo initiated an expensive cosmetic modernization of the stations in the summer of 2016, “slope poles” and partitions were installed on benches. These movements were widely viewed as forms of hostile architecture designed to deter the homeless from lying down.
Last May, Cuomo ordered the first shutdown of nighttime subway traffic. According to the MTA, the overnight closures are about disinfecting trains (which experts say is no longer the main route of transmission for COVID-19) and not removing the homeless, even though it does between 1 and 5 a.m.
“Governor Cuomo cannot solve the housing crisis by taking the homeless and closing the subway overnight to paying drivers,” Danny Pearlstine, director of politics and communications for the Riders Alliance, told Gothamist / WNYC. “[It] The real estate crisis does not solve the real estate crisis, neither does removing banks. “
Joe Rappaport, the executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID), noted that benches were being removed from his local Borough Hall station just over a year ago and wrote a letter to the MTA.
“And her response was,” We received complaints from people that a homeless man was using the bank and hanging out there and that’s why we removed it, “Rappaport told Gothamist / WNYC.” It was also a bank that I used a lot and that other people, mostly older people, used. “
Rappaport is a plaintiff in three lawsuits against the MTA for failure to comply with the Disabled Americans Act and New York City’s Human Rights Act on Accessible Wards.
“In the end, people who may need a bench to sit on because they have a disability or are just tired at the end of the day lose,” said Rappaport.