“I’ll tell you one of the silver linings here: the subways have never been as clean as they are now, and we’re helping more homeless people than ever before,” Cuomo said during a press conference as the state’s death toll hit 23,561.
The governor ordered the unprecedented nightly closure of the subways in early May to both boot vagrants from the system and deep-clean trains and stations.
Cuomo criticized the view that homeless living in the subways should be left alone.
“That was a misguided theory. Well, we respect your civil rights and civil liberties, we’re going to let you sleep on a subway car, and risk getting molested or hurt during the night. No! They deserved better,” he continued.
“And now because we close the subway to clean the cars, the homeless have to be off the subway otherwise you can’t clean the car, and it’s the first time you’ve actually had a real outreach program. So, out of crisis comes positivity.”
City outreach workers have been directing homeless people kicked off the subways to shelters — though many have turned them down and returned to the rails the next day. Photos showed some who did accept shelter sleeping on the staircase of one facility.
Cuomo would not say when the nightly closures will end and normal service will resume — or how New Yorkers should deal with fellow straphangers who refuse to wear masks on transit.
“There is a social responsibility, I believe, for people to wear masks. I believe it should be part of our culture,” he said.
“You can have conversations with people and point it out, but keep it friendly and helpful and constructive.”