MTA Dealing With Growing Homeless Population: Twitter Fiasco
The MTA came under fire for a tweet about homelessness in New York. Originally, someone had taken a picture of the 23rd Steet subway station with the benches missing, insinuating whether it was because the MTA had lost a lot of money over the past year. In a now-deleted tweet, the MTA Twitter account responded “benches were removed from stations to prevent the homeless sleeping on them.”
Abbey Collins, an MTA spokesperson, tried to explain in an email that “the subway is not a substitute for a shelter and homeless New Yorkers deserve much better care.” Adding that they were “working with the city” regarding the issue and had asked for “more dedicated mental health and medical resources which are urgently needed to solve the homeless crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
This would not be the first time that the MTA uses subway benches as a way to avoid people from sleeping on them. Just February of last year the Gothamist noted that the back of the benches in West 4th Station had been removed as well. Shams Tarek, the MTA spokesperson then, stated that the policy had “successfully led to a reduction in people sleeping in that problematic station; an improvement in employee safety and comfort; improved cleanliness; and an increase in the amount of customers using the benches as they wait for trains,”
The Gothamist also mentioned that the MTA has a history of prioritizing customer service before those who are homeless. In 2018, former New York City Transit President Andy Byford started a campaign to reduce the number of homeless people sleeping in subway stations. “There is a fundamental difference between someone coming in to keep warm and sitting on a seat and dozing off, I don’t really have a problem with that, but laying across a seat or behaving in an antisocial manner or making a mess is not acceptable,” said Byford at a board meeting.
And while the MTA passes on the responsibility of dealing with the growing homeless population to the city, policies meant to strip down people of a warm place to sleep and rest can be rightfully seen as inhumane regardless of who is enacting them. For now, though the tweet about the benches has been deleted, people have been commenting on every NYC Subway tweet with “put the benches back.”