Two homeless men were found dead on New York City subway trains in a 12-hour period as transit officials prepare for an overnight shutdown of the system that has served as a de facto shelter.
The first body was found Friday night on a C train in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood. The 56-year-old man was not identified.
Then on Saturday, 61-year-old Robert Mangual was pronounced dead on a No. 4 train in Brooklyn.
Their causes of death have not been determined, a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner’s office said Monday.
Workers from the city’s Department of Homeless Services had been trying to get both men off trains and into shelters, but it can take “dozens of encounters” to persuade homeless people to go inside, said Steven Banks, the department’s commissioner.
Both men had been tested for the coronavirus; one tested negative, and the other test is pending, he said at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily virus briefing Monday.
Ken Lovett, senior adviser to Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Pat Foye, called the deaths “heartbreaking” and added, “We have repeatedly said the subways are no replacement for shelter and if these two individuals were indeed homeless, as suspected, it’s clear more needs to be done by the city to ensure all New Yorkers have access to needed shelter and services.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that the normally 24-hour subway system will be closed for cleaning from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. starting Wednesday, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
City officials promised beefed-up efforts to coax homeless people who sleep on subway trains into shelters or city-funded hotel rooms.