Home Asides Walder: Panhandling numbers down, not eliminated

Walder: Panhandling numbers down, not eliminated

by Benjamin Kabak

When Mayor Bloomberg two weeks ago announced that there aren’t very many panhandlers left in the subway, he drew the ire of, well, most straphangers and homeless advocates across New York. Panhandling, as anyone who rides the subway knows, is alive and well underground. Beggars, musicians, kids selling candy: you name it, and it’s there. Yesterday, though, MTA head Jay Walder tried to clarify Bloomberg’s comments, and his point is a valid one.

While speaking with reporters after yesterday’s MTA Board, Walder addressed panhandling. He noted that “panhandlers are certainly something that you do see in the system” but allowed for a decrease in numbers lately. “When you compare the situations that you see in the subway today with the situations that some of us will remember from a number of years ago, I think the conditions in the subway today are very, very different,” he said. “I think the N.Y.P.D. has done an excellent job at being able to control and try to deal with this. I would not say that it has been eliminated; I think that is certainly not the case. But I don’t think equally that you can compare what we see today to what you might have seen 30 years ago on the subway.”

It’s tough to deny that panhandling and the presence of homeless people in the subway is has decreased lately, but it’s certainly a problem. Homeless people living in stations create unsafe conditions, and panhandlers of varying degree are a near-daily sight in the subway. As the system is open, cheap and warm, those without reliable shelters will continue to seek safety and change underground. Until the city provides better options, panhandling will be a fact of life underground no matter what the mayor says.

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13 comments

tacony palmyra May 26, 2011 - 2:52 pm

I’ve never taken the Times Square shuttle and not been serenaded by panhandlers.

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nycpat May 26, 2011 - 11:20 pm

The 42nd St. Shuttle is a disgrace as far as buskers playing on the trains. They even have a web site.

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ferryboi May 26, 2011 - 3:08 pm

I’d take a few panhandlers over the awful pissy smell that permeates the system from May-Sept. Rode the BMT along 4th Ave yesterday and got my first whiff o’ piss of the season. Disgusting.

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Benjamin Kabak May 26, 2011 - 3:37 pm

I ride the 4th Ave. line pretty regularly, and I didn’t realize that smell was limited only to the summer months. 🙂

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ferryboi May 26, 2011 - 3:53 pm

True, you can smell it any time, but it’s particularly acute during the summer months, and not limited to the 4th Ave line!

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JoshK May 26, 2011 - 3:35 pm

Even if all of the homeless and drunken idiots were somehow prevented from urinating in the subway system, you’d still smell that smell in the summer. Hot and humid weather makes people sweat and since sweat contains uric acid and smelly bacteria too, it smells very similar when concentrated. That combined with the subway’s inadequate ventilation and dampness, creates a perfect atmosphere for being overwhelmed with the foul odor of the NYC subway during the warm months.

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ferryboi May 26, 2011 - 3:55 pm

Sorry Josh, but it ain’t sweat I’m smelling. It’s piss, pure and simple. The subway wouldn’t smell like a bed or roses any time, but is the skells pissing and shitting on platforms and in tunnels that produces that sweet odor.

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pete May 26, 2011 - 4:27 pm

Also the 1000s of sewer leaks. The sewer pipes are ABOVE the tunnels, so its not the bums pissing in the tunnels, its sewer pipes leaking into the station. Tracks can have a 1 inch thick layer of “light brown mud” on them, normal subway dirt is black, not light brown.

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nycpat May 26, 2011 - 11:16 pm

Iron oxidizes red. At 137 yard there is red “mud”.
I would of thought the sewers were below the subway.

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pete May 30, 2011 - 3:30 pm

If the sewers were below the subway tracks, there would be no reason to have “ejector” rooms.

Judge May 26, 2011 - 8:55 pm

I guess it depends on where you’re riding, but I remember pretty foul smells on the Paris Metro because people were sweating (no air-con, at least a few years ago). On the other hand, I guess that’s one of the few benefits of elevated stations!

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Alon Levy May 27, 2011 - 4:30 pm

Still no AC, as of a year ago. Line 14 is an exception, and they’ll probably put AC on the new automated trains of Line 1 when they go into service.

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Deanna May 15, 2012 - 6:56 pm

…I remember pretty foul smells on the Paris Metro because people were sweating…
Well, you are talking about the French, after all.

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