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Window Pain for MTA as Smashed Glass and Video Screen Vandalism Soars

SHARE Window Pain for MTA as Smashed Glass and Video Screen Vandalism Soars

Smashed windows on a 7 train in Queens, Aug. 5, 2020.

MTA New York City Transit

Transit troublemakers are leaving a growing trail of destruction in the subway — even after the arrest last month of a man accused of smashing windows on a pair of trains.

There have been 295 reports this year of broken windows in subway cars, according to reports obtained by THE CITY. That’s up 64% from 2019, when there were 180 through Sept. 17.

And 200 window smashings have occurred since the early May shutdown of overnight subway service as the pandemic sunk daily subway ridership by nearly 70% compared to last year.

Meanwhile, the subway system has been beset by the damaging of hundreds of digital video screens, a rise in some violent crimes and the derailment Sunday of a Manhattan train at the hands of an alleged vandal. The property damage for broken windows and screens alone exceeds $2 million

The spate comes as the city tries to get back to business and as middle and high school students prepare to return for limited in-person classes beginning Oct. 1.

“That’s terrible — where is the respect?” said Marisa Raigosa, 60, who was transferring from the No. 7 at Queensboro Plaza Monday. “People have to respect the subway, because it’s for all of us.” 

An ‘Unacceptable’ Surge

The apparent window-smashing spree extends well beyond the months-long string of 45 incidents along the No. 7 line, with six reports alone last week of broken glass on the A, 2, 4 and 6 lines.

An A train had to be taken out of service at the line’s 207th Street terminal in Manhattan Thursday morning, sources said, after the glass on one of its doors was broken. Earlier that day, a No. 6 train was sidelined when it pulled into the Pelham Bay Park stop with a “broken picture window.”

The reports indicated 33 trains with broken glass this month through Thursday.

On average, an MTA official said, vandalized trains this month have been knocked out of service for 18 hours each, down from 41 hours in August.

Beyond the damage on trains, an MTA spokesperson said, there have been 357 reports this year of digital platform screens being vandalized. 

The MTA has spent $350,000 to replace subway car windows, the spokesperson said, while replacing 235 of the shattered screens cost the agency $1.8 million.

A smashed info screen at a Brooklyn station, Sept. 20, 2020.

Jose Martinez/THE CITY

The vandalism has put an additional financial strain on the MTA, which is seeking $12 billion in federal aid after its revenue from a sharp decrease in fares, tolls and taxes plunged during the pandemic.

Total major felonies in the subway are down more nearly 20% from a year ago through August, led by a 42% drop in grand larceny, according to NYPD statistics provided to the MTA.

But robberies, rapes and murders have all increased, even amid the huge fall in ridership. 

Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of New York City Transit, called crime of all types “unacceptable.”

“We have long called for more uniformed police and security in the transit system because we know that a law enforcement presence traditionally deters and prevents crime in our system,” Feinberg said in a statement to THE CITY. “This is crucial now more than ever as we work to bring riders back.” 

‘Ongoing Unaddressed Crises’

Police are still looking for whoever has been breaking windows on the No. 7. 

Records obtained by THE CITY show there have been four incidents on that line this month in which subway car windows were cracked — including on Sept. 11, when a train was taken out of service at 61st St.-Woodside because all the windows were broken on one of its cars.

“The subway is the most important and efficient way to get around the city,” said Martes Touze, 65, who was catching the No. 7 at 61st St.-Woodside. “It does not help to have these problems when people are starting to come back to the trains.”

“Closing the subway overnight hasn’t helped,” said Danny Pearlstein, policy director of Riders Alliance, a transit advocacy organization. “Increasing the size of the police force hasn’t helped.”

An A train derailed at 14th Street in Manhattan, Sept. 20, 2020.

Marc A. Hermann/MTA New York City Transit

Destructive vandalism peaked Sunday morning, when someone at the 14th Street station apparently flung metal tie plates into the path of an A train with 134 passengers, which sources said caused a derailment. Demetrius Harvard, 30, of The Bronx is facing charges of reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, assault and criminal trespass in the incident.

While New York City Transit crews were able to restore full service along the A/C/E lines in time for the Monday morning rush, there was extensive damage to hundreds of feet of tracks, third rails and pillars at the 14th Street station at Eighth Avenue.

Pearlstein said the increase in vandalism within the transit system points to problems caused by “ongoing unaddressed crises” in housing, homelessness, addiction and mental illness.

“It takes a focus on the problem not just as a law enforcement issue, but as a whole ecosystem of people who have been left out or excluded,” he said. “The solution takes investment.”

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