An attack this month on a subway motorwoman who was roughed up while at the controls of a train in The Bronx highlights gaps in safety that workers say leave them exposed to dangers on duty.
Ty Jeter told THE CITY that a glitchy intercom system kept her from reaching the train’s conductor for help after an enraged man kicked in the door to the operator’s cab aboard a No. 6.
“Partner! Partner! Partner!” Jeter, 45, said she yelled into the intercom. “I don’t know if she could hear me, but even if she could hear me, I couldn’t hear her.”
The Jan. 3 attack occurred, police said, when a man who had been banging on Jeter’s door and demanding heat forced his way into the cab as the train pulled into the Buhre Avenue station in Pelham Bay around 11:40 p.m.
Even before being shoved, Jeter said, she struggled to reach New York City Transit’s rail control center to request police assistance through a hand-held radio because the train was in a “known dead zone” with “very, very spotty” frequency.
“There were multiple failures here,” she said.
“It was just a mess over there,” Jeter added. “The flimsy doors, the lack of ease of egress in an emergency, the malfunctioning intercom, it was all a mess.”
Officials with Transport Workers Union Local 100 told THE CITY that train crews have long complained about the intercom system on some subway cars that have been in service since the 1980s and run on multiple lines.
“Train crews have been requesting for years that the [public address] and intercom systems on these trains get fixed,” said Canella Gomez, a TWU Local 100 vice president who represents train operators and conductors. “And they have refused.”
An MTA spokesperson said a train is not allowed to depart a terminal with a non-working public address system and that communication must be established between crew members before departure.
The spokesperson added that any defects in the intercom should be noted by employees in order for car equipment crews to make repairs.
MTA numbers show there were 45 incidents last year that would be classified as assaults on subway workers under state penal law — nearly as many as the 47 assaults in 2016, when ridership was double 2021 levels.
There were 46 in 2020, even as ridership collapsed by more than 90% during the peak of the pandemic.
“Attacks on transit workers are reprehensible and will not be tolerated,” said Demetrius Crichlow, the head of subways at New York City Transit. “We vigorously condemn any actions taken by customers that endanger MTA employees and are fully cooperating with NYPD investigators to bring the perpetrator to justice. Our deepest sympathies go out to our colleague recovering from this traumatic experience.”
Jeter said the man began yelling, “It’s cold in here!” and pounding on her door as she pulled the train out of the No. 6 line’s northern terminal at the Pelham Bay Park station.
“It wasn’t like a knock — it was boom, boom, boom!” she said. “He was irate, being super aggressive.”
An internal incident report obtained by THE CITY said the intruder kicked the door open, then “shoved [Jeter] into the right side of the cab and began trying to hold her down” once the train had stopped.
Jeter said she was “stunned” when the man kicked in the door, which was missing a key safety measure.
“The door stop is to prevent the cab from being kicked in, but this cab did not have it,” Gomez said.
An MTA spokesperson told THE CITY that the agency expects to complete installing the protective plates on all trains by the end of June.
Never the Same
“He has one arm and one leg in and I’m fighting with one arm and one leg,” Jeter said. “I didn’t know if he was going to punch me or strangle me, but I knew it wasn’t something good.”
She said she was “screaming for my life” while using her right hand to unsuccessfully try to buzz her partner and her left hand and leg to fight off the attacker.
Police said the man fled the train when Jeter opened the doors as he demanded — which she had to do manually with a key because only conductors can operate doors.
“He said ‘I heard you call police,’” Jeter said of the man, who she described as having a “big gnarly scar” on one of his hands. “He said ‘I served 15 years in prison and I’m not going back.’”
The conductor came to the first subway car, Jeter said, after the train didn’t move at the Buhre Avenue stop.
“When she saw me, she was like, ‘Oh my God, what happened?” she said.
Jeter was treated for neck, shoulder, hip and arm pain at a Bronx hospital. She has yet to return to work and is wary of even entering a subway station.
“I am 100% feeling the effects of this and I don’t know when I’m not going to feel it,” she said, choking up as she spoke. “I don’t think I will ever be the same again.”