Cuomo Gives MTA 24 Hours To Develop Plan To Disinfect 'Every Train, Every Night'

Homeless subway
Photo credit Stock photo
Sign up for WCBS 880's daily newsletter for the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A veteran subway conductor called on officials to act after posting cellphone video showing a subway train packed with homeless people — a situation that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has labeled "disgusting" and "unacceptable."

The video posted by Torry Chalmers shows car after car on a 2 train filled with homeless people sprawled out on the seats surrounded by their belongings.

“I got to send this to the governor. Let him see this,” Chalmers says in the video as he walks along the station platform aiming the camera into each car. “This is what I got to do. I got to go to work in this. This isn’t making any sense.”

As ridership plummets with millions staying home because of statewide orders meant to curb the coronavirus, homeless people have been seeking shelter in the subway system.

Chalmers told the New York Post that conditions have worsened in the subway over the past few weeks and many riders are frightened by the state of the system.

“People are scared when the train comes in the station. If one car looks bad, they’ll run to another — but it’s the same problem in every car,” he said.

He said the situation is also unfair to transit workers who he says are putting their lives on the line every day as they keep the trains moving so health care and other essential workers can get to and from their jobs. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo brought up the issue of "filthy" trains at his briefing Wednesday, saying he told the MTA he wants a full plan on how to "disinfect every train, every night" by Thursday.

"Any essential worker who shows up and gets on a train should know that that train was disinfected the night before," Cuomo said. "We want them to show up, we don't want them to stay home. We owe it to them to say, 'The train you ride, the bus you ride, has been disinfected and has been cleaned.'"

When a reporter questioned whether it's realistic and whether there's money to fund the governor's order, Cuomo asked, "What is the alternative? Essential workers go to work. By the way, you might get infected with the coronovirus on the train on the way to work. That's not realistic. I'm not going to do that."

The governor declared said "the MTA has been going back and forth with the NYPD for weeks and weeks and weeks" about how to get the homeless off the trains and into shelters.

"The MTA's story is they're at their wits end, but what I said is 'Look, I don't care who's to blame. I don't want to point fingers. I don't care.' I'm in a place where I'm dealing with people losing their lives every day. I just want to get it done and I will get it done," Cuomo said.

In a statement the MTA said, "“We fully agree that we must do everything we can to keep our system and trains and buses as clean and as safe as possible. Following on our aggressive plan of disinfecting our stations twice each day and our full fleet every 72 hours, we are completing a plan to further enhance and increase the frequency of our cleaning. We will deliver that plan to the governor as he requested.”

On Tuesday, Cuomo said conditions on the trains were disrespectful to MTA and other essential workers trying to avoid infection.

"They deserve better and they will have better. We have to have a public transportation system that is clean, where the trains are disinfected," the governor said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants the MTA to close 38 end-of-the-line stations.

"The way to disrupt the pattern is between midnight ad 5 a.m. close those stations," de Blasio said.

But Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg says doing that inconviences riders and will simply move the problem to the next station.

In a harshly worded statement, the MTA said the mayor should get out of the car and ride the trains to see what's really going on and solve the problem of his own making.

In an interview with WCBS 880, Feinberg said the MTA will need hire its own officers to clear out the homeless from the subway if the city and the NYPD don't.

"I need them in all of those stations, I need the NYPD officers and the social workers in all of those end-of-line stations by the end of the week," Feinberg said. "If they can't do it, I need to be able to go hire more MTA Police to get this done."

On Tuesday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told WCBS 880 that he is troubled by pictures of homeless on the trains and says police have been taking action.

"We eject people on a daily basis, and we don't eject people because they're homeless... it's for rules violations. Being homeless, being down and out, being in need of help is not what the NYPD is gonna start targeting people for. What we are targeting people for is helping people," Shea said, adding that the NYPD has officers that are ex-social workers trying to connect homeless people with services and, in some cases, hospitals.

Stay informed, stay connected — follow WCBS 880 on Facebook and TwitterDownload the RADIO.COM app + favorite WCBS 880 for breaking news, traffic and weather alerts.