MTA Says Plan to Clear Homeless From Subways is 'Outreach' Effort
QUEENS — A plan to clear homeless people from subways is meant to be an "outreach program" that will offer services to those seeking shelter from the cold.
NYPD and MTA officials said at a public meeting this week that they planned to send teams of officers, transit workers and emergency medical technicians to clear homeless men and women out of the subways, starting with the E line on Feb. 24, at 3 a.m.
The trains would then be cleaned before the morning rush hour.
But on Thursday MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz insisted that homeless won't be forced out of the system — adding that it would be a violation of their rights.
"It would be illegal to take someone out of the subway," he said. Instead, they'll be offered assistance, he said.
Ortiz confirmed that the MTA will be part of the NYPD's pre-dawn operation on Monday, which was scheduled because the agency received complaints about large numbers of homeless people on the E line.
But he said that the effort will be part of a regular outreach program, adding that those who don't want to leave the system won't be forced to do so.
Lisa Black, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services, said that the only reason that anyone — homeless or otherwise — can be removed from the system is if they are hurting themselves, hurting someone else or illegally engaging in criminal activity.
Christie Hofmann, a New York City Transit official and NYPD Deputy Inspector Michael Telfer, who oversees Transit District 20, which covers part of Queens, appeared to give a different message at a public police Community Council meeting in Queens Wednesday night.
Police officials announced that, beginning on Monday, they will work to clear the homeless from the E trains with a joint effort at the Jamaica Center and World Trade Center stations.
They said the plan would start with the E train because it had the most homeless, and would expand the program to the rest of the city after that.
During the operation, police officials said, they were planning to clear each subway car of homeless men and women, aiming to later take them to either a shelter or hospitals.
Officials said on Wednesday night that the initiative came in the wake of a spike of homeless seeking shelter underground during the brutal winter.
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.
The FDNY said in a statement that their emergency medical services will not be participating in the initiative, contrary to what the police officials said, but the agency added that "FDNY-EMS will continue to respond to all calls for emergency medical services."