Janno Lieber, the MTA's new chairman and CEO, said during an MTA...

Janno Lieber, the MTA's new chairman and CEO, said during an MTA Board meeting on Wednesday that Penn Station "has to be a place where our riders get the message that we are going to do everything in our power to make sure they have . . . an actual safe experience." Credit: Howard Simmons

The MTA’s new leader vowed on Wednesday to take the necessary steps to address growing concerns among riders over aggressive and potentially violent homeless people in the transit system, including at LIRR stations.

Much of the discussion at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s monthly board meeting in Manhattan focused on conditions in the subway, where two people were pushed onto the train tracks within eight days, including one who was killed. But Janno Lieber, who was confirmed by the State Senate last week as the MTA’s chairman and chief executive officer, said the agency also aims to address safety concerns at Penn Station.

"This is the one place in the system where we [are in] control — the Long Island Rail Road level of Penn Station," said Lieber, who noted that while NYPD, Amtrak Police and NJ Transit Police patrol other parts of the transit system, Penn’s LIRR concourse is overseen exclusively by MTA Police. "It has to be a place where our riders get the message that we are going to do everything in our power to make sure they have … an actual safe experience."

Lieber said the MTA already has an increased police presence at the station, and onboard trains. During a Saturday morning visit to Penn, he said he saw "literally no folks sprawled out in the Long Island Rail Road’s area." But he said he did see homeless people in other parts of the station, and is aware of "drug use and disorder around the station, in the streets outside."

While the MTA is looking at longer-term solutions, including subway platform doors and technology to detect trespassers on tracks, Lieber said more immediate steps need to be taken by police and social service agencies to address people at stations and in trains "behaving erratically and terrifying riders."

MTA Board member Vincent Tessitore Jr., who represents LIRR union workers, said more also needs to be done to protect transit workers, including through stricter enforcement of laws protecting them.

"We have to do something to make people more accountable when they do get caught," Tessitore said. "The leading reason why our employees are getting hurt is because they say to someone, very respectfully, ‘You need to put a mask on.’ In today’s world, that gets you smacked."

Also at the meeting, Lieber made it official that the MTA would not raise fares in 2022. A fare hike was originally scheduled for 2021, then deferred to this year. But Lieber said an influx of federal and state funding will allow the MTA to put off the planned increase for another year.

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