NEW YORK (NYTIMES) In a horrifying instant, a man walked up to a 40-year-old woman waiting for the subway in Times Square on Saturday (Jan 15) morning and shoved her to the tracks as a train screeched into the station, killing her, police said.
The attack, which appeared to be random, and which police said had been committed by a man with a history of mental illness who may have been homeless, immediately brought new urgency to several of the city’s most pressing concerns: A rise in some forms of violent crime, in areas including the subway; a debate about how to deal with the hundreds of homeless people who seek refuge there; and a transit system in desperate financial straits struggling mightily to lure back riders.
It also poses a steep challenge to the two-week-old mayoralty of Eric Adams, a former police captain who ran as a crime-fighter with a heart for the dispossessed.
Only nine days before, the mayor had announced with Governor Kathy Hochul a plan to achieve police “omnipresence” in the subways while also stepping up outreach to homeless people by trained mental health professionals.
Saturday’s was the second violent death in the subway in two weeks.
Mr Adams said at a news conference at the subway station that the “senseless act of violence” was a stark example of the immediate need to tackle what he called a mental health crisis underground.
“To lose a New Yorker in this fashion will only continue to elevate the fears of individuals not using our subway system,” he said.
The victim of the crime, Ms Michelle Alyssa Go, was Asian, touching another hot button – hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers have risen sharply during the pandemic – but police said there was no indication that she had been targeted because of her ethnicity.
Police said Ms Go, who lived on the Upper West Side, was standing on the platform around 9.30 am when the man, identified as Simon Martial, 61, pushed her to the southbound tracks as an R train arrived. She died at the scene.
Martial then rode the subway to lower Manhattan and told officers at the Canal Street station that he had pushed a woman onto the tracks, police said. The Manhattan district attorney’s office said that charges against the man were being prepared.
High-profile attacks throughout the pandemic against Asian New Yorkers, along with other episodes, such as assaults, stabbings and the shoving of people onto tracks, have also generated a flurry of news reports about violence that transit officials say have added to fears about the safety of the subway system.
Three murders were reported in 2019 in the system; that number doubled to six in 2020. Through November, six murders were also reported in 2021.