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Hochul defends deploying National Guard in NYC subways after ‘war zone’ backlash

Gov. Kathy Hochul (bottom right) defended the deployment of 750 National Guard troops in New York City's subway system (center), saying their presence would help deter crime and calm commuters' anxiety around the issue of public safety
Gov. Kathy Hochul (bottom right) defended the deployment of 750 National Guard troops in New York City's subway system (center), saying their presence would help deter crime and calm commuters' anxiety around the issue of public safety.

Gov. Kathy Hochul offered a full-throated defense Friday of her controversial decision to deploy hundreds of National Guardsmen in New York City subway stations — arguing they will act as a crime deterrent and calm commuters’ “anxiety.”

The Democrat was responding to a furious backlash from lawmakers and law enforcement — including NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell, who fumed that the city’s transit system was not a “war zone” — as she justified sending in 750 heavily armed National Guard troops to help with bag checks.

“My No. 1 priority as the governor of the state of New York is to keep people safe,” Hochul hit back in an interview with PIX11 “Morning News.”

“When you have that high level of anxiety, now you’re dealing with the psychological toll that deters people from wanting to go on the subway,” she said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday defended her decision to deploy hundreds of National Guardsmen in NYC’s subway. system. Getty Images
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday defended her decision to deploy hundreds of National Guardsmen in NYC’s subway. system. Getty Images
Hochul faced a backlash from both the right and the left after unveiling the plan to flood subway stations with 1,000 Guardsmen and state police. Stephen Yang
Hochul faced a backlash from both the right and the left after unveiling the plan to flood subway stations with 1,000 Guardsmen and state police. Stephen Yang

The governor said she respects what Mayor Eric Adams and the NYPD are doing to combat transit crime — but she argued that a recent spate of high-profile violent attacks targeting MTA conductors and riders has made straphangers nervous and kept them from the subways.

“New Yorkers are worried right now,” she said.

Pressed on why the state would not invest in hiring more police officers, Hochul said that would entail going through a time-consuming process of making funding requests — and she already has the National Guard at her immediate disposal.

She stressed that the city’s police force was still in charge of protecting the subways, with the Guardsmen acting only in a “supportive role” by helping with random bag checks.

“The National Guard are our neighbors; these are moms and dads from our communities,” she said. “They are just there as a deterrent to those who might think that they can get away with committing crimes.”

Hochul added that bringing in the National Guard was meant to give people a “deeper sense of security” without harassing commuters or making them feel uncomfortable.

Hochul said the troops will be in a “supportive role,” assisting NYPD officers in protecting subway riders. Stephen Yang
Hochul said the troops will be in a “supportive role,” assisting NYPD officers in protecting subway riders. Stephen Yang

“This is not heavy-handed,” the governor argued. “It is nowhere near what ‘stop and search’ was — a policy I did not support. This is just for a temporary basis to calm things down and let people know they’re safe.”

Under Hochul’s plan unveiled this week, the National Guardsmen will be joined by 250 state police and MTA cops to conduct bag inspections at subway stations as a way to crack down on transit crime.

But critics on both the right and the left have loudly decried the move.

“Transit crime is [down] 12% in the last 5 weeks because of extra cops deployed, a planned commitment by the NYPD and [Mayor Eric Adams],” Chell wrote on X Thursday. “Our transit system is not a ‘war’ zone!”

Critics lashed Hochul for militarizing the transit system and wasting funds. Stephen Yang
Critics lashed Hochul for militarizing the transit system and wasting funds. Stephen Yang

Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher (D-Brooklyn) slammed the troops’ deployment as a “ham-fisted and authoritarian response to several terrible incidents,” while Councilman Lincoln Restler (D-Brooklyn) argued there is “zero evidence” that bag checks boost public safety.

Crime in the subway system was up 13% since the beginning of the year, compared to the same time in 2023, although Adams on Tuesday touted a 14% dip for February.