While advocates for the homeless are apprehensive about NYPD efforts to clear them out during the papal visit, Commissioner Bill Bratton told Metro their efforts are unrelated to Pope Francis' trip.
Bratton pointed to the intersection at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue as a particularly chaotic scene as homeless New Yorkers have flocked it as a safe haven despite constant efforts by police to clear the area out.
"I've visited several times over the last couple of weeks, prior to what the pope is up to," Bratton said Wednesday. "Do we attempt to buff up the city? Sure. What's wrong with that?"
Repeatedly described in media reports as a homeless encampment, the intersection under the Metro-North tracks became a sort of battleground as activists recently decried the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio for their failure to help the homeless.
It's also not far from the East Harlem school Pope Francis is scheduled to visit on Friday. Bratton has previously said that the NYPD stands ready to follow the pope — internationally recognized for his willingness to interact with passersby — wherever he chooses to go.
"I think they're going to make sure the pope sees just a couple of homeless folks so he can bless them," activist and formerly homeless New Yorker Brodie Enoch told Metro earlier in September.
The day before the pope arrives in New York City and shortly before the United Nations General Assembly convenes, however, Bratton defended the department's preparation.
Brattons said that it included a cleaning of the tunnel under the United Nations, which he said was covered in graffiti.
"We have 170 world leaders going into the United Nations, so i think it might behoove us to go up and give it a scrub," Bratton said. "I make no apologies for cleaning the city up."