A viral photo has sparked a discussion about the state of the homeless population in New York City.
After the New York Post published a photo of a homeless man sleeping beneath the seats of an NYC subway train, a number of public officials have commented on the state of the city's homeless, according to WABC.
Passersby who saw the man sleeping beneath the seat said they were taken aback by the sight.
"That's crazy," said 62-year-old Peter Betta, according to the New York Post. "I've never seen anything like that."
"Homelessness is worse than it's ever been before," said 56-year-old New York native Howard Orlick. "There are no rules on the subway anymore."
Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on the photo, saying that the man would have been subject to police removal.
"It's not acceptable for people to sleep on a subway train like that," said the mayor.
"A case like that would be enforceable and we'll enforce it," said de Blasio. "We'll put whatever personnel we need on to stop something like that from happening."
Commuters and officials alike criticized de Blasio's reaction.
"The response is not to defend or excuse the presence of homelessness, but to get them the help they desperately need," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. "Every New York City mayor since Koch has realized this except our current mayor."
"We need to get the homeless off the trains and out of the subway stations so people feel safe and to get the homeless people the help they need," added the governor.
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill also commented on the photo, stressing the need to get help for homeless people in the city.
"When I saw that picture, it's really -- what drives you to be at that point in life?" said O'Neill. "We have to keep in mind her that part of the responsibility of keeping New Yorkers safe is to make sure that they get the help they need."
"Homelessness is not a crime and homeless people who are not violating subway rules cannot be ejected from the system," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Stephen Davis in a statement. "The NYPD and its social service partners have made more than 10,000 contacts in 2017 with homeless people to offer services and shelter. More than 90 percent of those people have refused service."
As of August 2017, there are 61,471 people sleeping in the NYC shelter system each night, according to statistics from the Coalition for the Homeless. While there is no accurate measurement of how many people are sleeping unsheltered in the city each night, homelessness in NYC has reportedly reached its highest levels since the Great Depression. African-American and Latino New Yorkers, along with those who suffer from mental illness, are disproportionately affected by homelessness.
Others who heard of de Blasio's reaction pointed out that the situation is not so uncommon on the subway, and some said they would rather hear about how the city planned to fix delays and problems with train service than its plans for removing homeless people from trains.
"I take the train every day, and every day is always someone, a homeless, lay on the platform or on the seat," said NYC resident Nilda Rivera. "Better they sleep down there, not on top and take all the space. I'm old, my leg's bad, I need to sit."
"I'm much more concerned with the broken kiosks and all the delays than some homeless dude and where he is sleeping," said 54-year-old Philip Turner.