NYC subway riders describe being bashed with pipe, menaced with hatchet in separate unprovoked attacks
A Brooklyn subway rider was menaced with a hatchet and Bronx straphanger was grazed in the face with a pipe in separate attacks by strangers early Monday, the shaken victims told reporters.
The unprovoked violence left both victims shaken and worried about the surge of headlines-grabbing violence underground. Mayor Adams has promised a crack down, beginning Monday, focused on fighting crime and getting homeless people who have taken refuge in the subways the help they need.
“Get these people out of here!” was Kyle Westby’s message to Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, speaking to the Daily News hours after a stranger swung at hatchet at him inside a Brooklyn subway stop. “There’s too much going on in the subway.”
Westby, 42, was talking on his cellphone with his girlfriend when he was confronted inside the Franklin Ave. station in Crown Heights about 12:30 a.m.
Westby was about to get on a No. 2 train and ride home to East New York when a heavyset man wearing a ski mask approached, staring.
“I’m like, ‘Why are you looking at me?’” Wesby asked. “‘Why are you staring at me?’”
In a matter of seconds, he said, the starer made a motion as if he was going to sit on a bench only to reach into his pocket and pull out a hatchet instead, rushing Westby.
The would-be victim dashed off, his attacker taking a wild swing but missing,
“He did not say anything,” remembered Westby, a supervisor at a fireproofing company. “I ran upstairs — thank God, the cops were up there — and I told them, ‘Officer, the man just swung an ax at me.’”
The officers nabbed Robert Griffith, 58, before he could get away. Charges against him were pending Monday afternoon.
Griffith was also carrying a screwdriver and a dagger, cops said, the news of which mortified Westby.
“That’s the scariest part,” he said.
Just over two hours later, Evelina Rivera, a 30-year-old chef, had her own brush with danger when a man she described as homeless came at her on a No. 4 train with what she believes was a shower tension rod, swinging so hard he bent her nose ring, knocking loose one of the ball studs.
“It could have been worse,” said Rivera, who escaped with a bloody cut but did not need to see a doctor. “I’m so lucky.”
Rivera said she usually keeps to herself while riding the subway but after leaving her job in Brooklyn she struck up a conversation with a woman as the train made its way to the Bronx.
They laughed about wrong information put out over the public address system and talked about Rivera’s multi-colored hair.
That didn’t sit too well with a sleeping and heavily-tattooed and pierced passenger who woke up, spilled honey onto himself from a bottle he was carrying and lashed out.
“Oh, would you guys just shut the f–k up?’” he yelled, Rivera recalled. “Under my breath, I’m like, ‘I’m not going to shut up. Who is this guy?’ And then he comes at us, going crazy.”
The attacker swung first at the other woman but she was prepared, dousing him with pepper spray and avoiding getting hit.
“But then he started swinging blindly and I got struck,” Rivera said.
The two women got off at the next stop, E. 167th St. in Highbridge, and alerted police.
“He didn’t even run off,” Rivera said of her attacker. “He just went back to his seat like nothing happened.”
Police Monday were still searching for the suspect. He is black and likely in his 30s and Rivera said he was wearing a black coat, black pants and grey tennis shoes and that he looked like a wizard straight out of a video game.
‘’We were just vibing,” she said of her and the other woman. “The other woman said you should be carrying something to protect yourself. Now I have to be more aware of that.”
The incidents occurred within the first hours of a push by the NYPD to crack down on subway crime and deal with homeless people who loiter in the subway system — and by social workers to provide services to those in need of a place to stay or mental health assistance.
Serious subway crime through Feb. 13 is up 65% this year compared to the same period last year.
Felony assaults are up just 3%, with 62 attacks so far this year compared to 60 by this point in 2021.
But robberies have spiked sharply, with 78 cases this year compared to 36 by this time last year. And there have been 131 cases of pickpocketing and other non-violent thefts compared to 65 last year during the same period last year.
In all of 2021, there were 461 subway assaults across the city — 102 more than in 2020. That was the highest number of assaults since 1997 when there 501 subway attacks, NYPD and MTA officials said.