The arrest of a man accused of shooting 10 people inside a Brooklyn subway station was a huge relief for New Yorkers who were afraid to take public transit, but anxiety lingers for many straphangers concerned for their safety.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says approximately 160,000 fewer people used the transit system compared to the day before Frank James allegedly filled an N train car with smoke and fired 33 shots on the train and 36th Street platform during Tuesday's morning rush. That's a drop of 5% in ridership while law enforcement searched for the suspect who was at large for more than 24 hours.
Following the attack, authorities said cameras inside the subway station where the shooting took place were not functioning, hindering the initial search for the suspect.
However, other cameras at nearby Kings Highway station were rolling that morning and they captured James attempting to swipe his MetroCard at the turnstile and eventually entering the subway through an emergency exit.
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To illustrate to riders that the subway is safe, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said there was more than enough video evidence to help the NYPD make an arrest.
"We have 600 cameras on the line just in Brooklyn, over 10,000 in the system, way, way up from where it was a couple years ago. So we have a lot of video," Lieber said.
Top officials like Gov. Kathy Hochul and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell took the subways following the shooting to also assure commuters that the trains are safe, but public confidence won't return overnight, said NYU urban studies professor Sarah Kaufman.
"There’s a perception it’s a lot worse than it is, but that certainly has an impact," Kaufman said.
The subway's ridership is also still trying to recover from the blow of the pandemic. Typical daily subway ridership fell from 5.5 million riders to less than a tenth of that. On Monday, estimated ridership was 3.1 million, according to the MTA.
Even as the gunman was still on the loose Wednesday morning, commuters like Ana Marrero were on their way again.
“You have to be more vigilant of your surroundings. But scared? No,” said Marrero, who has taken the subway to work for 30 years. “You think of the tragedy and the people that were hurt, but you have no other choice and do what you have to do.”
In Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, several riders said they prayed for safety as they returned to the 36th Street station, reopened a day after the shot-up trained pulled into it.
“I didn’t want to come to work today,” said Jonathan Frias, a construction worker, “but I had to.”
Dan Dzula, who lives four blocks from the station, stayed home Tuesday after receiving an alert on his phone about the shooting. The next day, he encountered a crowded yet quiet platform on his commute into Manhattan.
“It’s a little spooky,” Dzula said. "I have to be here and I want to. No one likes feeling threatened.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul posted a photo on social media showing her riding a train after the shooting, and Mayor Eric Adams pledged to increase patrols in subway stations.
“We know that this hurts the mindset of many New Yorkers who are afraid of what happened, but we’re a resilient city. We've been here before,” Adams told MSNBC on Wednesday.