New York Daily News
Cuomo: Me, take train? Puh-leeze, it would only be ‘homeless’ photo op
Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday conceded he does not ride the subway — but said he’s nonetheless confident the city’s underground homelessness crisis has improved over the last year.
“I, as governor, don’t really ride the system as a commuter,” Cuomo said during a news conference in Manhattan, two blocks away from Grand Central Terminal and its five subway lines. “The subway system doesn’t really go to Albany.”
That’s a departure from the governor’s comments on Monday, when he claimed he’d been on the subway since the pandemic hit New York. “Have you been on the subway? Because I have. And I was scared,” he said.
Despite his claim of being scared, Cuomo claimed progress in reducing the number of people who rely on the subway for shelter since May 2020, when he ordered homeless people evicted from the system during its overnight closure.
With the MTA set to restore 24-hour service on May 17, Cuomo said, getting homeless riders off trains and into shelters should remain a priority.
“Homeless in the subways is still a problem . ... Better than before, better than in recent history, but still a problem,” said Cuomo. “This is not where we have to reinvent the wheel. People should not sleep in the subways. People should be in a safe shelter environment. People need incentives to leave the subway and support to leave the subway.”
When the overnight subway shutdown began last year, the NYPD worked alongside social workers to kick homeless people off trains and urge them to go to shelters.
But police stopped that work last July, when city budget cuts moved homeless outreach out of the NYPD.
Many homeless New Yorkers cite safety concerns as a reason why they avoid the city’s shelters. “You have to improve the shelter system,” Cuomo said.
“It’s not that we don’t know what to do,” said Cuomo. “The state has the programs. We have the funding. There has been progress in certain cities where the [homeless] situation has gotten better.”
Not so fast says Shelly Nortz, deputy executive director for policy for the Coalition for the Homeless.
“People are sleeping in the subways because of the pandemic. They have been displaced and fear getting the virus in shelters,” explained Nortz. “The governor and others have failed to give them better options. They need single hotel rooms and more affordable housing.”
Cuomo said he has no plans to go underground and see the subway’s homeless situation for himself.
“When a politician does it it’s really a photo op,” Cuomo said. “You can do the photo ops with someone else.”
Cuomo’s last subway ride was a photo op in June, during which he sat for an interview with NY1 on a No. 7 train.
Other New York politicians have taken subway rides in recent weeks without members of the press alongside them on the trains.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) rode the No. 6 line to an event in East Harlem Tuesday, and Mayor de Blasio last month took the Broadway Line — which carries the N. Q, R and W trains — to an event in Times Square.