A 57-year-old woman who works as a researcher for the city's Department of Health was kicked down the stairs and bashed in the head with a hammer repeatedly before being robbed Thursday at the Queens Plaza subway station in Long Island City, according to a senior NYPD official and authorities.
The victim, identified in an affidavit and by her employer as Nina Rothschild, was on her way home from work and walking down into the station, which serves the E, M and R lines, around 11:30 p.m., when she was attacked, the senior official said.
Rothschild was ambushed by the stranger, who is seen on video following her into the station about a step behind. Cops say he pulled out the hammer after kicking her down the stairs and hit her with it multiple times in the head.
He then took her purse, which had some cash, two phones, two rings and credit and debit cards, and fled the scene. It's not clear if any words were exchanged.
Officers found Rothschild lying on the ground with trauma to her head. EMS brought the victim to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she was said to be critically injured with a fractured skull and brain bleeding.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, health commissioner for the city, called the attack "horrific" in a statement and said the agency's thoughts were with the woman and her family.
"Nina has worked tirelessly in service to her fellow New Yorkers and she is truly a public health hero," Chokshi said. "The Health Department and I will do everything we can to support her in her recovery—and we ask that all New Yorkers keep her and her family in their thoughts while respecting their privacy during this difficult time."
No arrests have been made at this time and the investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.
The horrifying attack comes less than a week after Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul jointly announced a new subway safety initiative -- one designed to both mitigate recent spikes in violence in the transit system and intensify homeless outreach as the city looks to encourage a rebound of subway use post-COVID.
Officials shared more details on that plan earlier this week, saying it would target six priority lines to start -- the A, E, 1, 2/ 3 (described as a combination target), N, R and 7 -- and include additional police and social services worker deployment.
Thursday's attack marks one of nearly a dozen logged in transit since the announcement.