The NYC subway is "an insane asylum on wheels"

(AP Photo/Barbara Woike)

The subways of New York City have been in the news even more than usual over the past few years and not for the reasons the Mass Transit Authority might wish. The tunnels have become epicenters for crimes of all types, and we’re not just talking about people hopping over the turnstiles to avoid paying the fare. There have been shootings, stabbings, and people being pushed onto the tracks. Robberies are common. And if the random common criminals and gang bangers aren’t enough, there are still armies of homeless people (though somewhat fewer during the summer months when many go above ground) mixed in with drug addicts shooting up on the platforms. At the New York Post, Steve Cuozzo appears to throw his arms up in despair and declares that Gotham’s subway system is now “an insane asylum on wheels” and something must be done about it.

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It’s time to drag the mentally ill off by force and move them to where they can’t harm anyone. If we don’t, the underground madhouse will soon reverse the recent increase in ridership — and kiss the city’s nascent recovery goodbye.

Oh, I forgot — laws don’t allow us to do that. Silly me!

I’ve ridden the subways for 50 years. I’ve never seen so many deranged individuals — schizophrenic, otherwise demented and/or drugged to the point of unpredictable potential violence.

As Steve points out, Mayor Eric Adams launched two ambitious plans to improve conditions in the subway last year. One would have cleared the homeless out of the tunnels, along with anyone who behaved in an “unsafe” manner. The other would have expanded the NYPD presence. So what happened to those plans?

They started moving the homeless out, but they quickly ran out of places to put them now that the shelters are all overflowing with illegal migrants. As for the police, they do what they can, but there simply wasn’t enough of a budget for the number of cops that would be required to really change things on the trains or in the tunnels. Both ideas were “quietly abandoned” without any official announcement.

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The sad reality is that this situation simply may not be fixable. A variety of municipal and national movements altered the way we deal with the mentally ill. Mental hospitals are looked at with suspicion and locking people up to give them treatment without their consent is considered barbaric. Throwing people in jail for the types of “minor crimes” you primarily see on the subways has fallen out of fashion. And the scope of the problem expanded so rapidly that the city is overwhelmed. You allowed the clowns to start running the circus and now they vastly outnumber the ringmasters.

I consider myself to be rather fortunate in this regard. I began limiting my trips to New York City as much as possible more than a decade ago. And when I do have to travel there, I call an Uber to get around. I don’t think I’ve been down into the subways in New York for at least fifteen years. But I understand that not everyone is so lucky and many people simply can’t avoid it.

It’s the city’s responsibility to keep those subway riders safe and secure as much as possible. It’s the “as possible” part that is the most worrisome because I no longer know what if anything can possibly be done. But the fact that I don’t see a solution to readily address the problem doesn’t change that fact. I didn’t run for Mayor or a spot on the City Council. The people who did asked for this mess and it’s their job to address it.

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David Strom 12:40 PM | July 24, 2024
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