The weekend after Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a plan to address safety concerns on New York City’s subways that focused on stopping homeless people from sheltering in the system, at least eight violent attacks took place in stations and on trains, only one of which involved a suspect who appeared to be homeless.
There was little pattern to the attacks, which the police said began Friday evening, when a 31-year-old man was stabbed in the left forearm in Morningside Heights in Manhattan on a southbound 1 train by a man he had asked to stop smoking, and ended early Monday morning, when a 30-year-old woman was struck in the face with a small metal pipe on a southbound 4 train in the Bronx.
Altogether, the attacks took place in every borough in which the subway operates, on four different train lines and in four different stations. None of the attacks were fatal, though some of the victims were hospitalized, and few arrests were made.
The varied nature of the attacks underscored the difficulty of rooting out random violence in the nation’s largest transportation network, which encompasses hundreds of miles of track and is used by millions of people each weekend.
It was not immediately clear how the number of attacks compared with other recent weekends; the police track transit crime on a weekly basis and do not publicly break it down by category. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that runs the system, releases more detailed information on a monthly basis.
But transit crime has become an increasing concern over the past year. In 2021, the rate of violent crimes per million riders was significantly higher than in 2019, with robberies and assaults having risen sharply, even as ridership lagged well below prepandemic levels. Felony assaults in particular were up nearly 25 percent, despite the drop in ridership.
Those trends have been punctuated by several high-profile incidents, most recently the fatal shoving of a woman onto the train tracks in Times Square by a mentally ill man last month.
The subways have been a focus for Mr. Adams since before he took office, and on Friday, he and Governor Hochul released a safety plan to deploy police officers and mental health workers in an effort to remove the more than 1,000 homeless people who regularly shelter in the subway system. Some of those teams began their work on Monday.
But while their plan focused on homelessness and mental health, only two of the weekend’s eight attacks involved homeless people, the police said — and one of those people was a victim. Several other episodes of violence came after robberies or disputes aboard trains. It was unclear whether or how mental illness played a role in any of them.
Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the M.T.A., said in a statement that the attacks over the weekend should not be considered “normal.”
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- Perspectives From the Platform: Times reporters visited three stations to see where subway riders have returned, and where they haven’t.
- Subway Killing: The high-profile death of a woman who was pushed onto the tracks poses a test for Mayor Eric Adams.
- A Long-Delayed Subway: Residents of East Harlem have been waiting almost a century for new stations. Some aren’t sure they’ll be built.
- M.T.A.’s Uncertain Future: While ridership has crept back up, there’s a growing consensus that it may never return to prepandemic levels.
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“People who would prey on New Yorkers riding transit should get the message that it’s not going to be tolerated,” he said.
A spokesman for the mayor, Fabien Levy, said that Mr. Adams strongly condemned the attacks, and that they “shouldn’t be subject to sweeping generalizations.”
“We should not conflate such isolated acts of violence on the subways with broad statements about the behavioral and mental health challenges the city is confronting, or the issues of aiding those experiencing homelessness that the mayor’s plan directly addresses,” Mr. Levy said.
But advocates said that the mayor himself had tied concerns about public safety to homeless people in a way that was both cruel and inaccurate.
“Homeless people have become the scapegoat for an issue that has little to do with homelessness,” said Josh Dean, the executive director of Human.nyc, a policy organization that focuses on homelessness. “And that’s not a new phenomenon.”
Subway safety has been a focus for Mr. Adams since last year’s Democratic primary, when he said during a debate, “We should have a police officer on every train.” Soon after he took office, the city began deploying an additional 1,000 officers in the subway system.
Two officers were on the Times Square platform last month when Martial Simon, a man with a history of severe mental illness, including schizophrenia, shoved Michelle Alyssa Go, 40, in front of a train, killing her, he told the police.
Some have argued that the officers’ presence that day illustrated that law enforcement alone cannot fix what ails the system.
Elizabeth Glazer, a founder of Vital City, a nonprofit focused on public safety policy solutions, said that attacks like those over the weekend would be hard to predict or address in a systemic way, and that there were limits to what the police could do.
“It doesn’t mean that we should all throw up our hands,” said Ms. Glazer, who led the mayor’s office of criminal justice under Mr. Adams’s predecessor, Bill de Blasio. “But we have to have a more stable and considered way to address what we think is driving these incidents.”
Illustrating the point were the four attacks that took place on Saturday alone, following the stabbing Friday in Morningside Heights: Two were robberies, one was a dispute that led to a robbery and one was an unprovoked attack.
At 3:00 a.m. at a station in Queens, a 45-year-old man who the police said was homeless was robbed by three men, one of whom was carrying a knife and stabbed the victim in the thigh and buttocks.
Twelve hours later, at a station in eastern Brooklyn, a 20-year-old woman was punched in the head and stabbed in the stomach by an unknown assailant, the police said.
Seventeen minutes after that, in the Bronx, a 74-year-old man got into an argument with two teenage girls smoking in a train car. The girls attacked the man, the police said, with one slashing him in the face and another pushing him to the floor. Both were arrested and charged with assault and robbery.
Finally, that evening, a 24-year-old man was robbed by two men, one of whom stabbed the victim in the right leg, the police said. The victim refused medical attention.
Three more attacks followed. On Sunday at about 6 p.m., a 31-year-old man riding a 6 train in Lower Manhattan was stabbed without provocation in the back and arm, the police said.
On Monday, at about 12:30 a.m., a 58-year-old man was arrested by officers stationed at the Franklin Avenue station on Eastern Parkway after swinging a hatchet at a 42-year-old man whom he had accused of staring at him, the police said. The man has been charged with attempted assault.
Finally, at about 2:40 a.m., a 30-year-old woman riding a 4 train in the Bronx was approached by a man who the police said appeared to be homeless, who asked her to stop talking to a friend. When she tried to ignore him, he struck her in the face with a small metal pipe, the police said. She refused medical attention.
Winnie Hu and Andy Newman contributed reporting.