EAST ELMHURST, Queens— The homeless population has surged in New York City and now the problem has gone beyond crowded shelters and dirty streets.
More and more homeless are squatting at LaGuardia Airport.
“I think it’s the responsibility of the city to make sure that they have actual shelters and can take care of people. They shouldn’t be using public facilities like that,” airline passenger Vassyl Lonchyna said. “And they shouldn’t be cluttering this terminal,”
And while that passenger blamed the city for a poor response at LaGuardia, New York City doesn’t actually have jurisdiction within the airport.
According to a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, “The Port Authority has its own police department and funds a nonprofit to provide homelessness services.”
We found the homeless everywhere in Terminal B, from ticketing to the food courts to a waiting area.
In fact, we saw one man, named Rick, who PIX11 interview last March.
He has now been living at LaGuardia for more than 2 years. He said he prefers the airport to city shelters.
Some of the airport businesses have complained to the Port Authority about the increase in homeless in the terminal.
“It’s kind of bad in the morning because they sleep. And we kind of need to wait until they wake up,” Noor Neegar, a manager at Auntie Anne’s said. “And if they just make a camp next to the store it’s really annoying.”
Noor said some homeless also ask passengers for food.
Workers at a book and travel shop told PIX11 some of the homeless steal and harass employees.
The New York Post reported Monday that at least 50 homeless people are squatting in the airport’s Central Terminal on a regular basis. Most leave during the day but come back at night. Some wash in the restrooms and make it difficult for airport janitors.
The business managers PIX11 talked to said they have complained to the Port Authority.
A Port Authority of NY and NJ spokesperson said it, “…contracts at its major airports with non-profit and not-for-profit human services providers experienced in providing various services to the homeless, including relocating individuals to shelters where possible. Working with these organizations has enabled the agency to be sensitive to the needs of these individuals, while ensuring there is minimal impact to aviation operations.”