MTA task force to address homeless issues

RELATED TOPICS: TRANSIT | NEW YORK
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MTA_Homeless_Spielman
Surrounded by his possessions, a homeless person sleeps on an MTA subway train in November 2018. An MTA task force will deal with increasing issues regarding homeless on subways and buses.
Ralph Spielman

NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has authorized a task force to address issues regarding the homeless and panhandling on its subways and buses.

The announcement at Wednesday’s MTA board meeting follows a letter earlier this month from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo urging the board to address the issue as part of its reorganization plan. In 2019, there are 2,178 homeless people living in the subway, an increase of 23% over 2018; MTA statistics showed trains were delayed 659 times in 2018 by homeless people engaging in disruptive and dangerous behavior including blocking train doors.

Additionally, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday that the Bowery Residents’ Committee, a nonprofit contractor hired by the MTA to help with homeless outreach, turned away the needy and provided inaccurate information to the agency. A report released Tuesday by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said that outreach workers at Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal manipulated time sheets and ignored people seeking help. Since 2010, the MTA has awarded more than $14 million in contracts to the nonprofit Bowery Residents’ Committee; a four-year audit by DiNapoli’s office found workers spent just 26% of their time conducting in-person outreach to homeless individuals, half of the 47% to 59% required by the MTA contract.

The Wall Street Journal reported [subscription required] that Grand Central Terminal’s lower level dining concourse revenues fell by 3% in 2018, in part because of homeless people using the space, according to the MTA. A board report mentioned that the continuing challenge of an aggressive homeless population thas not helped in promoting the food concourse as a convenient choice for dining,

Chairman Patrick Foye told reporters after the meeting, “Despite the fact that we are spending a significant amount of money on helping the homeless on the subway, obviously, the numbers dictate it hasn’t been successful. …  We need to take a look at the social service vendors that we use for this service.”

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