Additional reporting by Suhail Bhat
A daylong smashing spree in the subway left the MTA with its worst window pain since 2020, with an entire line knocked out of service and transit workers scrambling to replace shattered glass on trains.
Nearly 100 windows on 45 trains were shattered between early Tuesday and Wednesday morning, officials said, forcing service on the W line to be suspended because the line did not have enough trains with windows.
The impact on commuters extended into the Wednesday evening rush, the MTA said, with limited W service between Astoria and Lower Manhattan.
“We literally have exhausted, depending on the fleet class, the number of windows in our supply and are now stealing windows off of [subway] cars that are in our train yard,” Richard Davey, the president of New York City Transit, said Wednesday at the Whitehall Street station in Lower Manhattan. “So that gives you a sense for how acute this issue is.”
Police said windows on trains along the N, Q, W and B, D and F lines were smashed as vandals inflicted the heaviest toll on subway train glass in more than three years, when, according to MTA data, there were 104 incidents of vandalism on trains in a single week in August 2020.
The NYPD has yet to pinpoint where in the sprawling transit system the train cars were vandalized, but police and transit officials said video was being pulled from subway yards, as well as from stations.
“I don’t know of a place that has more cameras than a Las Vegas casino than we do,” Davey said. “We will find you.”
Standing with Davey, NYPD Transit Bureau Chief Michael Kemper, said he was “very confident” that investigators will be able to identify where the glass-smashing occurred.
“The video system in the New York City subway system is vast and robust and proves to be extremely helpful in so many cases and cases just such as this,” he said.
According to MTA numbers from a state data dashboard, there have been 214 reports this year of vandalism involving glass on trains, peaking at 48 in July. But in just over 24 hours, transit troublemakers ripped through that mark and wrecked the commute for W train riders.
“I have train crews sitting in that break room right now who don’t have W trains to run,” Davey said. “They want to be out there.”
The 214 glass-smashing incidents is down from 326 for the same time period last year, when there were 326 such reports, according to MTA data. In that same stretch in 2021, numbers show, there were 148 reports of vandalism involving train glass.
But during the depths of the pandemic, vandals left an even more staggering trail of destruction. THE CITY reported in September 2020 that 295 train windows were smashed in the first nine months of that year — even after the August 2020 arrest of a man accused of breaking windows on a pair of trains.
Train windows aren’t the only glass objects that have been targeted in the subway system.
THE CITY reported in April that more broken glass was the second-most-common form of subway vandalism, trailing only subway graffiti. According to MTA data, more than 2,000 train windows and platform liquid-crystal displays have been shattered since August 2020.
Davey said he was “pissed off” that service had been hampered at a time when the ridership has been bouncing back as school open and New Yorkers return from summer vacations. Overall, MTA data shows that weekday subway ridership is at around 65% of what it was prior to the pandemic, with around 3.5 million trips on weekdays.
“I don’t know what’s in the mindset of these criminals, but it sure as hell ain’t helping us deliver service for New Yorkers,” Davey said.
As he waited for a Brooklyn-bound train Wednesday afternoon at 57th Street in Manhattan, Jorge Campos said he had been late to work while waiting for a train around 5 a.m.
“I had to call my job and say I was going to be late by a lot,” Campos, 25, told THE CITY. “It’s wild that someone could get away with that level of vandalism.”