Hochul’s New York City Subway Safety Plan Sees Questionable Progress

Governor Hochul promised to increase the NYPD presence within the MTA system for the sake of commuter safety, but many seem to be unsatisfied with the results.


Brad Bang / Unsplash

Recently New York City has experienced a significant increase of the police presence in its subway systems.

Barreling down the tracks, the Bronx’s D train makes its rounds. Tunnel lights flicker through the windows, clashing with the greenish yellow fluorescent glow of the car. It’s dirty and empty, with only two passengers on board. Sitting on the orange bench in the corner is Bronx Science student Layth Kasser Gandoul ’23, nearing the end of his commute home. He rests his feet on the bench adjacent to him to keep his sneakers away from any mysterious sticky fluids on the subway car’s floor. Half asleep, he barely notices the emergency doors being opened, inviting in the vacuum of sound from the rarely enforced restricted area between cars. A man enters the car, holding a metal chain that trails on the floor. He approaches a random passenger and begins attacking him with it. Gandoul quickly exits the D at the next stop. “I’m not dealing with that,” he said. 

It’s been about six months since Governor Hochul’s October 22nd, 2022 announcement. In the announcement, she revealed the refinements of the Subway Safety Plan, which seeks to improve the conditions of the MTA through various programs and partnerships, including with the NYPD.  These programs include creating specialized police response teams, providing officers with training to deal with mentally ill individuals, streamlining the process to receive care, and various other plans. But these programs need funding, and their current source is only temporary. Furthermore, many are questioning the effectiveness of these solutions Governor Hochul has provided.

I interviewed various high school commuters throughout the MTA system, as well as fellow Bronx Science students, to see how they feel about the current status of Hochul’s MTA security. Hochul claimed that the increased presence of officers would help protect commuter safety, but some people believe they still aren’t there when they need to be. “I haven’t felt safe on the train in ten years,” said Forest Hills High School student Marwan Ibrihim ’24. Ibrhim regularly commutes aboard the E train.

Ibrihim: “Whenever there’s a fight or something, it kind of just happens, and no one comes to break it up. That fear of being pushed into the tracks has really become real.” 

TB: “What do you think they should be changing?”

Ibrihim: “Add doors that block off the actual rails from the platform like the European countries have. I would say more police, but they’ll just use them to catch fare evaders.”

A common complaint was that the presence of officers was being wasted on fare evaders. One D-line commuter from Bronx Science, James Yao ’23 told us that enforcing the fair was just plain wasteful. “They’re not doing a good job at keeping harassers off the train; instead, they are just harassing riders. It’s a waste of money.” 

For others, the increased police presence is noticeable, although many riders believe that their presence isn’t making a significant difference to the safety of those on board. Mairéad Sheehy ’25 from Edward Murrow High School spoke to me about this issue.

TB: “How do you feel about the NYPD officers who patrol the MTA?”

Sheehy: “They ignore important things like possibly harmful people or guys doing inappropriate things, but they get mad and overreact over hopping the turnstile.” 

TB: “So you think they should worry more about those harmful people than fare evaders? How often do you see them by the turnstiles?”

Sheehy: “Yeah, and they’ve been by the turnstiles way more lately.”

This is the result of the MTA’s initiative to make their NYPD presence more noticed. According to an announcement on the state website, officer presence surged with 1,200 additional overtime officer shifts being served, “equating to approximately 10,000 additional overtime patrol hours every day.” Furthermore, to help these “harmful or dangerous” individuals, two new psychiatric centers were opened within New York City.

Despite the increased police presence, and increased vacancy at psychiatric centers, incidents of violence still occur. M-line commuter Becca Suffel ’24 from Saint Francis Prep shares this concern.

Suffel: “The amount of subway attacks this year and just how poorly they were handled isn’t great.”

TB: “Do you think the quality of security has at least improved?”

Suffel: “I wouldn’t know, as I’ve genuinely been too scared to take the subway for months. I’m only on it now to meet a friend.” 

The government certainly signed a big check to fund the Subway Safety Plan, but the money has to come from somewhere. In her announcement, Governor Hochul stated that a temporary investment into the public emergency fund would finance the safety plan. The money pays for the immense officer overtime the NYPD puts in. But the funds are also needed to finance medical services, mental health response teams and centers, officer training, and other precautions. In order for the Subway Safety Plan to be a permanent solution, every promise made by the plan needs to be met and funded.

Though unappreciated, the surveillance of MTA turnstiles have absolutely helped prevent fare evaders. Standing by the turnstiles, we waited for fare evaders to appear. One anonymous junior hopping the turnstile to the D-line told us, “Yeah (they’ve improved security) because I get intimidated when I try to jump the fare — when there’s an officer, at least.” Another student commuter, listening in on the conversation added that, “they’re there, sure, but I’m still going to try to jump if they’re not watching. I hopped just now. No one saw.” 

There’s more to the Subway Safety Plan that looks promising, that may not be so accessible to the public’s eye. “These initiatives, and the continued expansion of the successful B-HEARD pilot, will bring much needed support and resources to those who are experiencing profound challenges like serious mental illness and homelessness,” said Tina Chiu and Jason Hansman, acting co-directors for the Office of Community and Mental Health. To provide such support the success of B-HEARD (Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division), a part of the Subway Safety Plan, is essential. The plan allows for the division to now operate in six additional police precincts, where mental health professionals will be able to respond to calls. However, B-HEARD is small, and the MTA’s situation is too big for them alone to handle. Further expansion must take place in order to make a dent in crime.

In the end, security on the MTA requires a long-term solution. Issues of violence and homelessness will prevail unless the city government can solve the problem at its roots. The Subway Safety Plan itself will not be able to last as long as their source of funding is still a temporary matter. There is still much to be done.

In the end, security on the MTA requires a long-term solution. Issues of violence and homelessness will prevail unless the city government can solve the problem at its roots. The Subway Safety Plan itself will not be able to last as long as their source of funding is still a temporary matter. There is still much to be done.