Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials today joined with TWU Local 100 to call on the City to deploy additional NYPD officers and mental health resources to the transit system following recent attacks on employees in the subways, including three yesterday and two today.
The officials made their remarks outside Jamaica Hospital, where New York City Transit conductor Gerard Sykes is in critical condition after being slashed in the face in what witnesses said was an unprovoked attack while riding the train. MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye and TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano visited Mr. Sykes’ bedside and were updated on his care before the news conference where they were joined by NYC Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg, NYC Transit Executive Vice President of Subways Demetrius Crichlow, and TWU Local 100 RTO Vice President Eric Loegel.
“This tragic incident underlines once again the critical need for an increased and engaged police presence in our system at this pivotal moment in the City’s history,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye. “People need to be safe, and they need to feel safe, while riding the subways, buses, and commuter rails – period. Or they won’t come back to transit, which means not coming back to NYC.”
Chairman Foye and Interim President Feinberg expressed concern for Mr. Sykes and the tens of thousands of other frontline employees working in the transit system.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sykes and his family,” Interim President Feinberg said. “This was yet another horrifying attack against one of New York City’s Transit heroes. These are true public servants - the men and women who have been carrying the city on their backs for the last year. And it is completely unacceptable that these men and women show up to work day in and day out, and they're attacked as they're serving the City of New York.”
Interim President Feinberg also reiterated her repeated call on City government to provide more police and mental health resources to the system, particularly in light of suggestions made by the mayor this morning at his daily briefing that the City has pulled police officers that were surged into the transit system after several recent incidents.
“The mayor has gone out repeatedly and said that crime is down in the system, that it is at an all-time low, and no one wants that to be the case more than me, but that is just not sharing the full story,” Interim President Feinberg said. “The full story is that given where ridership is, crime should be lower. Of course this system is safe for the vast majority of people who are using it, but it is not as safe as it could be, and it is not as safe as it should be – particularly for our workforce. And the men and women of New York City Transit deserve better."
“We are in a critical moment in New York’s recovery, when we need people to come back to the city and come back to the transit system. Once again we ask for the city to step up and put the additional resources we have asked for into the system,” Interim President Feinberg added. “And yet instead, day after day, City Hall pretends that we don't have a problem, and that we just pretend this is not happening, that we look the other way and pretend our transit workers aren’t being assaulted. We aren’t going to do that.”
Felony assaults in the subway system from January to March are up 47% compared to three years ago (119 in 2021 compared to 81 in 2018).
President Utano made a graphic appeal for more mental health and police resources in the transit system on behalf of his union’s members.
“We just went upstairs and we saw one of our members lying there, and he's all bandaged up, he's on a respirator, he's all sliced up, and then you have a mayor that says, hey, you know, they're going overboard, there's really no problem. There is a problem,” President Utano said. “We need the police down there and we need the homeless outreach people out there. But the mayor also needs to fix the shelters because you're going to take the homeless out of there, and you're going to put them in a shelter where they don't feel safe. They need police, they need medical people, they need to get help. We need to get these people help – God, this is America. I've said this over and over again. There should not be a homeless problem here. There should not be a homeless problem; they should be taken care of.”
“This is a City problem,” Utano added. “He's the mayor of New York City – he needs to fix this problem, because my members are getting assaulted, and our families are getting assaulted.”