NEW YORK (PIX11, AP) — Subway conditions and safety have become a worry for many New Yorkers during the pandemic. Although police statistics show major felonies in the subways have dropped over the past two years, so has ridership, making it difficult to compare.
And some recent attacks have gotten public attention and raised alarms. A woman was pushed to her death in front of a subway train at the Times Square station Saturday, police said, a little more than a week after the mayor and governor announced plans to boost subway policing and outreach to homeless people in New York City’s streets and trains.
Michelle Go, 40, was on the downtown N, Q and R platform when she was suddenly pushed in front of an arriving train around 9:40 a.m. on Saturday. Simon Martial, 61, a man with a history of mental health problems and a prison record, turned himself in to police and confessed to the crime within the hour of when it happened.
On Sunday, the platform was back open, and passengers waiting for trains there said that while they were both aware and sorry about what had happened, they had to keep riding the trains.
“I try to be aware of my surroundings,” said Jonathan Jones, who was waiting for a Q train.
He said that he tries to ensure his attention is not diverted, “like be on my phone all the time, or take a nap on the train.”
Ridership overall is less than half of what it was before the pandemic began. In spite of that, according to NYPD crime statistics, transit crimes are up 82% between the first full week of January 2022 and the same period last year.
On Sunday, multiple police patrols were very visible in the Times Square station.
Many riders said they feel safer with more police around, but some passengers said that they don’t see cops around as much as they’d like. Moses Romero had just gotten off the train at Times Square.
“Not that present, in my opinion,” he said about the visibility of police throughout the subway system. “I’m from the Bronx, and you don’t see that many cops on the platform.”
Saturday’s attack came after shortly after Mayor Eric Adams was joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul to discuss the state of the subways. Hochul said she was planning to put together five teams of social workers and medical professionals to help the city guide people living on streets and subways to shelter, housing and services.
They have repeated their commitments to their joint plan in the wake of the killing.
But the deadly shove isn’t the only incident that has riders worried.
In September, three transit employees were assaulted in separate incidents on one day. Several riders were slashed and assaulted by a group of attackers on a train in lower Manhattan in May, and four separate stabbings — two of them fatal — happened within a few hours on a single subway line in February.
In recent months there have been several instances of people being stabbed, assaulted or shoved onto the tracks at stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and at Times Square.
Saturday’s attack against Go, who was of Asian descent, also raised concerns amid a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in New York and around the country. Police officials said the killing, including whether it was a hate crime, was under investigation, but noted that the first woman Martial allegedly approached was not Asian. Martial is Black.
“This latest attack causing the death of an Asian American woman in the Times Square subway station is particularly horrifying for our community,” Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said. She said the community was still mourning the Dec. 31 death of Yao Pan Ma, a Chinese immigrant who was attacked in April while collecting cans in East Harlem.
“These attacks have left Asian Americans across the city and across the country feeling vulnerable and they must stop,” Fung said in a statement.
Adams, who has been mayor for two weeks, has noted that a perception of danger could drive more people to eschew the subway, complicating the city’s economic recovery as it tries to draw people back to offices, tourist attractions and more.
“We want to continue to highlight how imperative it is that people receive the right mental health services, particularly on our subway system,” the mayor said Saturday. “To lose a New Yorker in this fashion will only continue to elevate the fears of individuals not using our subway system.”
“Our recovery is dependent on the public safety in this city and in the subway system,” Adams said.
Under his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, the city repeatedly said it was deploying more police to subways after attacks last year and pressure from transit officials. The agency that runs the subway system, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, sped up work to install security cameras in all 472 subway stations citywide, finishing that project in September.
However, the city also has repeatedly faced complaints in recent years about heavy-handed policing in subways. Protests erupted, for example, after police were seen on bystander video handcuffing a woman they said was selling churros without a license at subway stations in 2019 and punching a Black teenager during a brawl on a subway platform that same year.
Six police officers were assigned to the station Saturday, authorities said.