NEW YORK — The subway stabbings that left two dead and two others wounded last Friday and Saturday has echoes of the Chinatown rampage where four people were bludgeoned to death in October 2019.
Now, as then, both the victims and the alleged attackers were experiencing homelessness and mental health crises.
“This is what happens when we fall down as a society and we don’t take care of the basic housing and health care needs of everyone," said Áine Duggan, CEO and president of the Partnership for the Homeless.
Police say the alleged assailant who stabbed four homeless people on the A train line had four past arrests and was previously hospitalized for mental illness.
Suspect Rigoberto Lopez was listed as last living in a Boerum Hill shelter.
“New York City, we lack a ‘housing first’ model and what that means is that people who are homeless and living with a serious mental illness actually have to jump through an incredible number of hoops to gain access to housing with support services," said Giselle Routhier, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless.
The city’s flagship mental health initiative has been criticized for its lack of transparency and failure to target serious mental illness.
ThriveNYC is dedicating more funding to its crisis prevention and response task force in upcoming years.
In the wake of the subway attacks, MTA brass repeated their call for more police and mental health resources.
“By my count, myself and the chairman have asked the city for additional policing and mental health assistance more than 30 times in the last 18 months," said Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit.
Elected officials who attended a vigil Monday in Upper Manhattan for the subway stabbing victims also warned of a state of crisis.
“I tell you this mental health issue, it’s about to explode on us," Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan/the Bronx).
“Very often, there’s opioids or addiction involved in it, so they need help," he said earlier. "We’re not going to be able to jail ourselves out of this problem."
Advocates for the homeless maintain an influx of police is not the answer.
“If we think about the tools that police have, it’s necessarily going to be tools within the criminal justice system," Routhier said.
“This is about deploying trained mental health workers and outreach workers — the combination of both," Duggan said.