What to Know
- Rising concern over safety in the city's subway system continues following a string of violent attacks that took place Wednesday morning.
- These incidents are the latest in a growing number of violent attacks on subway riders and workers.
- For months, the transit agency and the workers' union have been asking the city to do more to address the problem that has many New Yorkers afraid to take public transit.
Rising concern over safety in the city's subway system continues following a string of violent attacks that took place Wednesday morning.
According to transit sources and police, a 60-year-old passenger was stabbed on the 3 line shortly after 10:30 a.m. at Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn and was taken to Brookdale Hospital. The woman was stabbed in the back and slashed in the shoulder. Her condition is unknown at this time. The suspect, according to police, fled to the street and is described as being around 5 feet 5 inches and in his 20s.
In another Wednesday morning incident, a woman was hit in the face with a skateboard shortly before 9 a.m. on the Downtown/Brooklyn F line on 75th Avenue in Queens, according to transit sources. NYPD says that a 29-year-old man apparently approached the woman acting erratic and punched her in an unprovoked attack. Police say no words were exchanged and good Samaritans held the man until officers could arrive. Andres Gonzalez, of the Bronx, was arrested and charged with assault in this incident, according to police. Attorney information was not immediately known.
Meanwhile, in Times Square at around 9:11 a.m. a customer was assaulted in the mezzanine/passageway of the 1 train. In this incident, the victim, a man, was slashed in the face. According to police, the 35-year-old man was sitting on bench when he was approached by the suspect. NYPD says that the suspect began to talk to the man and when the man removed his ear buds and asked, "Are you talking to me"? the suspect allegedly spit on him and slashed him on the left side of the face. The suspect subsequently fled in unknown direction and is described by police as being around 6 feet and his 20s. He was last seen wearing blue jeans.
Prior to that attack, according to sources, another one also took place in the Times Square station when a transit worker was punched in the face around 7:40 a.m. on the southbound platform of the 2 train.
Following the transit worker's attack, the Subway-Surface Supervisors Association released a statement saying in part that the 13-year veteran "was punched in the face in an unprovoked attack committed by an emotionally disturbed individual."
The statement goes on to say: "This heinous attack is just one of countless assaults that have been committed against transit workers over the past several years and reaffirms precisely why Transit Supervisors should be covered under proposed legislation that would impose felony charges against anyone who assaults one of our members. How can the riding public expect to be safe if the essential workers who keep the city moving every day aren't safe? Enough is enough!"
NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg also addressed the multiple attacks in the subway system in the span of mere hours.
"Sadly once again, we’ve seen several separate attacks within a few hours across three boroughs – two of them taking place at the busiest station in our system by far, Times Sq.-42nd St.," Feinberg' statement read. "The mayor must act. The transit system needs an injection of additional mental health resources and a visible police presence on platforms and trains to deter crime and better support our customers returning to the system. New York’s economic recovery depends on it.”
These incidents are the latest in a growing number of violent attacks on subway riders and workers. Another attack weeks ago left a train conductor hospitalized in critical condition, with calls for the city to "do something" growing louder in recent weeks.
The police department statistics show while overall subway crime is down this year — felony assault is up 20% this year compared to last. Taking into account lower ridership because of the pandemic, the MTA and the union say the number of assaults has increased but the NYPD Transit Chief last month accused workers of fearmongering.
The MTA is asked for the police department to deploy 4,300 cops in the subway system. That’s the level of cops that were in the system when the NYPD took over the transit police in the 90s. In February, the NYPD increased the number of cops to 600 and Mayor Bill de Blasio mistakenly said last week that some have been removed, law enforcement sources told News 4.
With subway safety concerns on the rise, City Hall also launched a commuter buddy program as tens of thousands of municipal workers returned to in-person office work earlier this month.
The recently introduced voluntary program lets staffers sign up to be paired with a colleague who shares a similar commute on the city's public transit system. The program, offered right now to City Hall employees, is said to expand to other city agencies in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, a customer survey released in April by the MTA, found that current riders said crime and harassments are more concerning than cleanliness, social distancing, mask wearing and health safety. Out of those 33,000 people surveyed who have not returned to public transit, 70 percent said crime and harassment is "extremely important."
Overall, the majority of them said crime likely will influence their decision to use transit in the future.
The police department said it had stepped up presence in the subways following a rise in random attacks, but less than half (45 percent) of MTA customers said they've noticed an increase of cops in the system.
However, 76 percent of people who answered the MTA's survey said they do feel safer in the presence of uniformed officers.
But riders aren't the only ones concerned about safety on the rails. For months, the transit agency and the workers' union have been asking the city to do more to address the problem that has many New Yorkers afraid to take public transit.
The transit workers union issued a message, saying that "transit workers are sick and tired of being attacked and menaced. If a cop doesn't deter criminal behavior, at least he or she is there to arrest the individual."
The mayor doubled down on the safety of the subway, praising the NYPD's "outstanding job" in making the system safe.
"If you said to one of my kids, 'oh, you shouldn't go on the subway. It's not safe.' They would laugh you out of the room, they would tell you, you clearly couldn't be a real New Yorker," de Blasio previously said earlier this month during his daily press briefing. "They couldn't think of life without taking the subway, and let's get real. Let's tell people it's safe because it is safe, and it's part of our recovery. It's part of how we come back. The more people go back to the subway, the safer it will be, the stronger the recovery will be."
His comments came a day after transit workers called on the city to provide more mental health services after three people with mental health problems halted train services on the same day.
“Three incidents in less than four hours involving people threatening harm to NYCT employees is a stark reminder of why the City needs to surge essential mental health services and police officers ASAP," the MTA said in a statement May 5.