Mayor Eric Adams, a former transit police officer, and Gov. Kathy Hochul highlighted the local, state and federal resources the city will employ to combat mental health and safety.
It also seeks to add more behavioral health emergency assistance teams — as part of the “B-HEARD” pilot program — in precincts to allow mental health professionals to respond to nonviolent mental health 911 calls, direct NYPD enforcement of subway rules and provide investments in homelessness services and housing facilities.
“The subway system and our bus system, they are the lifeblood of our city,” Adams said. “If we don’t get them right, our city won’t continue to recover from Covid. Millions of New Yorkers use the system to go to school, to go to their place of employment and just to visit their loved ones. It provides a vital service.”
Hochul nodded to the “very real humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes for far too long,” referring to homelessness and mental health.
Friday’s announcement took place just one day after a 22-year-old man was stabbed on a Brooklyn-bound train in an apparent unprovoked attack by a male stranger, according to the NYPD.
Advocacy group says plan will ‘criminalize’ homelessness
“Repeating the failed outreach-based policing strategies of the past will not end the suffering of homeless people bedding down on the subway,” Nortz said in a statement. “It is sickening to hear Mayor Adams liken unsheltered homeless people to a cancer. They are human beings.”
Nortz applauded the restoration of 600 psychiatric inpatient beds in the city that were previously converted to Covid-19 treatment beds, as well as investments in homelessness and housing services. But she said the plan did not go far enough in providing voluntary inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care.
These resources should include medication, individual hotel rooms for unsheltered individuals and “at least 1,000 immediate low-barrier subsidized permanent housing placements paired with mobile mental health teams,” Nortz said.
“Medicaid managed care is an utter failure for those with the most serious mental illnesses, and must be completely reformed,” she said.
New measures aim to ‘modernize’ subway system
The new measures represent the second phase of city’s plan to improve and modernize a 113-year-old system that was forced to scale back its services early in the pandemic amid staffing shortages and declining ridership. Since the first phase of the effort was announced in January, NYPD officers have conducted some 115,000 inspections in the system, Adams said.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the number of people experiencing homelessness has increased “substantially,” Adams said, citing the loss of jobs, uncertainty about housing and untreated medical crises and conditions.
“The vast majority of the unhoused and mentally ill is not dangerous,” Adams said. He said while subway riders have been “deeply concerned,” the plan will ensure that their “fear is not New York’s reality.”
Other key initiatives in the plan include training NYPD officers in the subway system to enforce MTA and New York City Transit Authority rules of conduct; incorporating medical services into DHS sites to serve people experiencing unsheltered homelessness; requiring everyone to leave the train and the station at the end of the line; transitioning people from the subway system to “safe” spaces.
NYPD officers will enforce subway violations such as “sleeping across multiple seats, exhibiting aggressive behavior to passengers, or creating an unsanitary environment,” the city said in a press release.