(Bloomberg) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state transit agency must rid city subways of a growing homeless population.

In a letter sent Friday to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board of directors, Cuomo said they should confront the issue as part of a reorganization plan the state legislature required last month. The MTA and the city police department have to stop pointing at each other to avoid responsibility, he said.

About 2,200 homeless persons are living in the subways this year, a 23% increase over 2018, Cuomo said in the letter. Homeless persons delayed trains on 659 occasions last year, by walking on tracks or engaging in other disruptive conduct, he wrote.

“I’ve never seen it this bad,” said Cuomo, a Democrat. “I’ve never seen it as a year-round phenomenon. ”

In pushing the MTA, Cuomo described himself as an expert in homelessness policy even before he served as U.S. Secretary of Housing in former President Bill Clinton’s administration.

In his nine years as governor, Cuomo has been attacked by advocates for tenants and the homeless who say he worsened the problem by failing to support laws that would prevent deregulation of rent-stabilized housing. Such attacks became muted this year after he agreed to sign a package of sweeping tenant protections approved by both the state Senate and Assembly, which Democrats control for the first time in decades.

The homeless population began to spike in 2011, after the governor eliminated state aid for rent subsidies to tenants at risk of eviction, according to Kenneth Schaeffer, a lawyer for the Metropolitan Council On Housing, a tenant advocacy group.

“Governor Cuomo’s failure to push for stronger rent laws has directly contributed to increased homelessness,” Schaeffer wrote in a 2016 article published on the council’s website, titled “Cuomo’s Homelessness Hypocrisy.”

Gubernatorial spokeswoman Dani Lever didn’t immediately respond to questions about the criticism of Cuomo.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Goldman in New York at hgoldman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Flynn McRoberts at fmcroberts1@bloomberg.net, Stacie Sherman, Michael B. Marois

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