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NYPD patrol chief, lawmakers rip Gov. Hochul for sending National Guard to NYC subways: ‘Our transit system is not a war zone’

A high-ranking NYPD official on Thursday ripped Gov. Kathy Hochul’s decision to flood subway stations with hundreds of National Guardsmen — pointing out that New York City’s transit system is “not a war zone.”

Chief of Patrol John Chell was among the chorus of critics who lashed out over the governor’s move to suddenly deploy 750 National Guard troops and 250 state law enforcement to combat what she described as a subway crime “crisis.”

“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 in a fiery post on X.

“Our transit system is not a ‘war’ zone!” the chief added. “Bag checks have been around since 2005.”

The NYPD’s patrol chief and a slew of lefty Big Apple lawmakers on Thursday ripped Gov. Kathy Hochul’s push to flood the city’s subway stations with hundreds of National Guardsmen. James Messerschmidt
The NYPD’s patrol chief and a slew of lefty Big Apple lawmakers on Thursday ripped Gov. Kathy Hochul’s push to flood the city’s subway stations with hundreds of National Guardsmen. James Messerschmidt

Former Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik noted that “the NYPD knows their job” — suggesting they don’t need the state law enforcement help to conduct bag checks in the transit system.

“Give them the tools and laws they need to do the job and we wouldn’t have this problem!” Kerik wrote on X. “This isn’t brain surgery. We’ve done this before, and we did it better than anyone in the country. It can be done with the right leadership!”

He added: “Stop the theater!”

Hochul, a moderate Democrat, also came under fire from liberal lawmakers and lefty advocacy groups, who insisted her crime-fighting plan was nothing more than a political stunt designed to stoke fear — and a “dangerous” waste of resources that could just lead to a surge in stop-and-frisk.

“Ham-fisted and authoritarian response to several terrible incidents (even as the crime rate is falling ) that does nothing to foster real public safety but validates GOP propaganda about urban lawlessness in an election year,” Brooklyn Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher wrote on X.

A number of troops were already helping the NYPD with bag checks at Manhattan’s Grand Central station just hours after Hochul’s announcement. AFP via Getty Images
A number of troops were already helping the NYPD with bag checks at Manhattan’s Grand Central station just hours after Hochul’s announcement. AFP via Getty Images

“In other words, a predictable move by this Governor.”

Councilman Bob Holden (D-Queens) penned a letter to the governor and the mayor calling for answers for what he saw as a sudden and senseless move.

“These enhanced security initiatives’ timing and abrupt nature have prompted me to consider potential underlying reasons,” the councilman wrote in the letter, obtained by The Post.

“The scale and immediacy of the actions suggest that there might be more to the situation than has been shared with the public and elected officials.”

Hochul on Wednesday had touted the deployment as a way to help Gotham crackdown on transit crime following a spate of violent attacks — including last week’s random slashing of an MTA conductor in Brooklyn.

But critics charged claimed the push to “militarize” the subway system — a major show of force not seen since the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks — was heavy-handed, with Chell and others pointing out transit crime was down last month after Mayor Eric Adams boosted police patrols.

Some claimed the move was just a knee-jerk reaction to the spate of recent high-profile attacks — including three murders between Jan. 14 and Feb. 23, arguing the resources could be put to better use.

“There is zero evidence that conducting subway bag checks advances public safety,” Councilman Lincoln Restler (D-Brooklyn) tweeted. “Instead of wastefully deploying 750 National Guard troops, I wish the Governor did something helpful – like fund 750 safe haven shelter beds to move homeless people from the subways into housing.”

Chief of Patrol John Chell blasted the governor over the decision. Paul Martinka
Chief of Patrol John Chell blasted the governor over the decision. Paul Martinka

Lefty state Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) called it a “bad move.”

“We want more people taking public transit, which has public safety benefits, not policies to hold up commuters and spread fear,” she said, noting the looming implementation of New York’s $15 congestion toll for motorists.

Others, including Brooklyn Assemblywoman Latrice Walker and Councilwoman Shahana Hanif (D-Brooklyn), argued the renewed emphasis on bag checks was a “veiled return to the stop-and-frisk era.”

“Decades of failed policies tell us who gets stopped at ‘random’ bag searches,” Walker said in a statement, noting that “black and brown people were disproportionately targeted.”

A National Guardsman patrols the subway at Grand Central Station on Wednesday, March 6. AFP via Getty Images
A National Guardsman patrols the subway at Grand Central Station on Wednesday, March 6. AFP via Getty Images
Hundreds of troops will be deployed to the subways. Getty Images
Hundreds of troops will be deployed to the subways. Getty Images

Hanif added: “This misguided policy risks repeating the worst abuses of stop-and-frisk.”

Hochul’s announcement came after Adams had already revealed that cops would be enhancing bag checks and stepping up its presence in the system following a string of violent underground attacks this year.

While subway crime rates spiked 45% in January compared to the same month last year, Hizzoner on Tuesday touted a 15% drop for February, which he tied, in part, to switching the NYPD on 12-hour patrols to boost police presence underground.

Overall, for the year, crime is up on the subways by 13%, the latest NYPD statistics show.

A bag check at Grand Central Station. Stephen Yang
A bag check at Grand Central Station. Stephen Yang

Confronted by the backlash, Hochul came out on the defensive Thursday, as she doubled down on her plan to combat transit crime, telling Fox5 that if straphangers didn’t want their bags searched they could simply “go home.”

“You can say no, but you’re not taking the subway,” the governor said, adding that the guardsmen and cops would be positioned “right near the turnstiles.”

The governor hasn’t yet disclosed where the National Guardsmen will be rolled out, only saying they’ll be deployed to the city’s “main transit hubs.”

A number of troops were already helping the NYPD with bag checks at Manhattan’s Grand Central station just hours after Hochul’s announcement.

State and MTA police officers were back at the Midtown transit hub Thursday checking bags.

“I am so happy they’re doing this. I feel safe,” said Yaneth Palomo, 42, a Harlem resident and worker at a catering company who was taking the shuttle to the Times Square station.

“It’s a good opportunity for New Yorkers to walk around the train stations without thinking that something will happen to them,” he added.

But Joe Hill, 50, a union organizer heading from Grand Central to SoHo, countered: “I feel like it’s not necessary.”

“The reason crimes have been occurring is often because people don’t have the mental health care that they need,” he said, “so this is addressing the symptom and not the problem.”

Additional reporting by Georgett Roberts