The latest incident in strings of violent attacks on New York City subway riders and workers has left a train conductor hospitalized in critical condition and calls for the city to "do something" have grown louder in recent weeks.
Cassandra Sykes, speaking out in the video released by the transit workers union, says her nephew Girard Sykes was slashed on the J train near Fulton and Crescent Streets Wednesday night.
“It is not safe for the transit workers or the public to ride trains or buses," Skyes said.
The 52-year-old father of three, seen in a photo taken by the TWU Local 100 union, is intubated and needed two emergency surgeries after a man passing through the train slashed him with an orange box cutter behind his ear and left him to die.
In another incident Thursday, police say a transit motorman was attacked in the Bronx after he confronted a man who was smoking on the train. The person allegedly went to the worker's cab, slammed the door into him and knocked him unconscious.
“We cannot keep living like this day after day worrying about our people that's getting up coming to work for you," Skyes said. "Do something, please do something."
In a rare move Thursday, MTA leaders joined with the transit workers union for a news conference outside Jamaica hospital where Sykes is recovering.
"Every day on my phone I get messages from command. Our members are getting spit on, they’re getting punched, they’re getting stabbed and then you have a mayor that says there’s no problem. There is a problem," said union president Tony Utano.
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 asking 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 Thursday that some have been removed, law enforcement sources told News 4.
The mayor doubled down on the safety of the subway during his daily news briefing, 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 said. "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 come 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 Wednesday.
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.