Complaints about Penn Station are nothing new. Anyone who has walked through the much-maligned New York City institution could tell you about the cramped confines, the dimly-lit corridors and all of the signs of disrepair. Some even yearn for the days that Penn Station had a beautifully designed headhouse on Seventh Avenue and didn’t sit underground beneath Madison Square Garden. Though, a candidate for Governor of New York decided to cross a line from protesting about terrible facilities to disparaging people experiencing homelessness within Penn Station.
Representative Tom Suozzi, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, held a press conference on Wednesday at Penn Station to point out the present state of public transportation across the metropolitan area. Suozzi targeted this public appearance at his primary opponent, Governor Hochul. Kathy Hochul is the state’s first governor from outside the New York City area since 1932. Suozzi represents northeastern Queens and Long Island’s North Shore in Congress and is a lifelong Long Islander.
While speaking, Tom Suozzi leaned on his experiences commuting into the city on the Long Island Rail Road. Though, he quickly pivoted from the usual Penn Station complaints to demonizing homeless people. He said, “There’s literally people that are using drugs, shooting up right outside. There are people aggressively approaching people right outside of these facilities. It’s a scary place.” While he did cover his bases by stating that the increase in crime wasn’t directly related to the homeless, it was clear what he was trying to imply.
Yes, there has been an increase in subway crime compared to 2020. Though, that’s due to the low ridership caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Understandably, crime levels would return to pre-pandemic levels are ridership returns to normal. According to New York City Police Department statistics, 1,581 major felonies were committed on public transit from January to November 2021. 1,626 major felonies were committed in 2020. Pre-pandemic, 2,227 major felonies were committed in 2019. The NYPD’s definition of a major felony includes assault, rape, murder, robbery and burglary.
Winning votes shouldn’t come at the expense of some of the people who need help the most. I would hope that the next Governor of New York would understand that whether they have commuted through Penn Station or not.