Decay and depravity underground as the system struggles to recover

Following the horrific subway pushing death of Michelle Go, 40, in the Upper West Sider last week in Times Square, The Post spent three days inspecting the beleaguered transit system, where crimes are up 30% this year compared to the first three weeks of 2021.

Traveling approximately 100 miles along 12 different lines and traveling through dozens of individual stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, a team of reporters led by a reporter Kerry J. Byrne and photographer JC Rice witnessed decadence and depravity – and kept a diary of the grim scenes that have become the norm in the world’s greatest transportation system.

TUESDAY, January 18

Penn Station, Manhattan – 11:04 a.m.

A man struggles on an almost empty Local Platform 1 talking to himself, dragging behind him shopping bags full of personal belongings. The Post is witnessing people appearing homeless at nearly every station.

Stephane Yang

West 4th Street Station, Manhattan – 12:05 p.m.

A man sleeps on an otherwise largely empty A train as it stops en route to the city centre. The whole platform smelled of feces, urine, alcohol and cigarette smoke.

man sleeping in west 4th train
Stephane Yang

2 train to Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn College Station, Brooklyn – 6:57 p.m.

A team cleans around a sleeping man who uses his backpack as a pillow.

The cleaning crew sit on the platform with bright yellow mop buckets and plastic bottles of Neutral Q, a commercial disinfectant, and board trains as they reach the last stop on the line. In one instance, the crew cleans up for only a few seconds, then jumps onto the platform when the conductor announces that the train is about to return to town.

We don’t see other cleaning crews staying vigilant in the same way on the terminal platforms of other metro lines.

JCRice

125th Street Station (4, 5, 6), Manhattan – 9:25 p.m.

A man taunts a trio of transit cops in the mezzanine above the East Harlem platforms.

“Suck my dk!” shouts the man, before quickly diving into the right pocket of his pants, raising fears for the worst.

He pulls out a small wad of cash and waves it in front of one of the cops. “Look at this? Bank! I work in a bank bro!” shouted the man. Five young men jump the turnstile as the heated situation unfolds.

The cops come out of the station and let the man walk.

man arguing with cops 125th Street, 4,5,6 Statio
JC Rice

125th Street Station, Manhattan – 9:21 p.m.

A troubled man in a grubby gray tracksuit, so dirty it appears to be covered in oil, stumbles awkwardly around the platform begging for money.

homeless on the 25th street platform
JCRice

WEDNESDAY, January 19

42nd Street/Port Authority Station, Manhattan – 8:38 a.m.

Jairo Cardenas has been running Alpha Shoe Repair in the station’s main passage for 30 years. Business has never been worse, he says. It was seeing up to 90 customers daily before the pandemic, now just 9-12 people a day.

Homeless people made a habit of stealing his umbrellas, including his entire stash one day last year. The MTA has given him a major respite: he’s only paying 25% of his pre-COVID rent. He won’t say how much.

“We need people to go back to their office jobs,” Cardenas said.

metro repair watch
JC Rice

Grand Central, Manhattan – 9:05 a.m.

Heather Cole, playing the violin on the passage leading to the 4-5-6 platform, says she has been victimized during the pandemic by homeless men masturbating in front of her – the pervs revoltingly taking advantage of the reduced foot traffic.

“A man left me $5 when he finished,” the musician said. “Then he asked me for $3 back.”

violinist metro grand central terminal
JC Rice

Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue, Queens 11:56

A person dozes on a wheelchair buried under blankets as a train passes in the direction of Manhattan.

A young Asian couple board another R train minutes later after expressing concerns about safety on the tracks.

“We take the subway a lot less because of hate crimes,” said Chinese-American Elvis Li, with his friend Ashley Xu, both 21 and from Queens. “I feel like other races see Asians as more docile, less likely to fight back. It feels like we’re being harassed, especially older people. We need to act.

Peerson on the Jackson Heights R station platform
JC Rice

42nd Street/Port Authority Station, Manhattan – 1:38 p.m.

Two undercover cops approach a homeless man who is carrying a broom and wearing a hospital gown under his jacket. The homeless man walks away north through the station tunnel after a brief discussion with officers.

Cops, who identified themselves as NYPD after the encounter, approached another drifter moments later. They quietly escorted him out of the station and into the Port Authority terminal.

There is a heavy police presence at many stations, including five on duty Tuesday night at the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station in Brooklyn (not game night); and nine parked on Flushing Main Street in Queens on Wednesday morning.

Officers appeared in varying stages of engagement in the subway system: some staring at their phones or chatting with colleagues standing near MetroCard machines, others actively approaching people in distress on platforms.

cops approach homeless man from 42nd street subway
JC Rice

Herald Square Station, Manhattan – 2:28 p.m.

Two cops check on a homeless man who seconds earlier was asleep sitting on a bench near two other vagrants. The man refused help from officers, who then asked him to clean up the debris he had spread on the two seats next to him: MetroCards, loose change and a lighter, among other personal bric-a-brac.

homeless herald square subway
Matthew McDermott for NY Post

191st Street Station, Manhattan 3:10 p.m.

An NYPD officer patrolling the 191st Street Station platform boards the 1 train to inspect a car before it heads downtown.

“We got more cops [in the subways] for a while,” said another station officer. “I’m not looking for the homeless. For drugs.

At least 10 teenagers jump from turnstiles at the station in front of a pair of officers, who did not pursue the riders.

The NYPD has issued 3,505 Transportation Adjudication Board summonses this year, through Jan. 16, about the same number as last year (3,467), when 1 million fewer people rode the subway each day , according to MTA data.

191st 1 subway cop train
JC Rice

Rockefeller Center Station, Manhattan – 4:29 p.m.

An Asian woman waits for a train to her uptown destination at the top of the steps because she is too terrified to retreat to the platform in the wake of Michelle Go’s death.

“I’m safe from someone pushing me on the rails, but I’m not safe from someone pushing me down the stairs,” the woman said.

B/D/F/M Rockefeller Center Station
Stephane Yang

34th Street/Herald Square, Manhattan 4:43 p.m.

Editor and columnist Steve Cuozzo spots eight officers standing around the mezzanine near the 35th Street exit, chatting. But he doesn’t see any cops on the platform, where they’re really needed.

The NYPD reports that 1,000 additional cops have been working on the subway since January 6.

metro cops herald square
Steve Cuozzo

THURSDAY, January 20

West 4th Street Station, Manhattan 12:19 p.m.

A man named Jim staggers around the BDFM platform drinking from a gallon canister of black and white scotch. “Yo. New York. New York City,” he announces, after hefting his bottle into the air, then stumbles onto the platform.

MD Islam, which runs the kiosks on the platform, reopened in October for the first time since closing in March 2020. It is so dismayed by the chaos and lack of normal passenger traffic that it may close again .

“No business. No sales. No security. It’s very very bad,” he said.

Another man nearby sleeps on the same platform amidst a pile of trash.

4th subway west
JC Rice for NY Post


Myrtle Avenue Station, Brooklyn 3:13 p.m.

A desperate man picks up a McDonald’s bag after someone threw it near the top of the dirty floor steps of the elevated train platform. He puts his fingers in the bag looking for food, then tears it open and licks the crumbs from his fingertips.

Bonny J. Streater