Michael Steinberg was attacked by a deranged man in 2006 at the 110th train subway stop and is advocating for booth attendants to keep their jobs. (Photo by Tiffany L. Clark)
Michael Steinberg doesn’t need to be told that station agents are vital to subway security. The proof is written in long scars crisscrossing his chest.
In 2006, a crazed man wielding two power hacksaws attacked Steinberg in his subway station, nearly ripping through the postal worker’s lungs in a drug-fueled rampage. If it wasn’t for a quick-thinking station agent, the Manhattan man would have bled to death.
“They do more then just sell MetroCards and give directions. They saved my life,” said Steinberg, 67.
He’s now fighting to keep the agents roaming the subway system as the cash-strapped MTA plans to fire 450 of them by May to save $21 million a year. All booths will have one token clerk on duty at all hours, and stations are equipped with intercoms to contact the on-duty worker for help, a NYC Transit spokesman said.
The MTA will close 100 token booths across the system, including at the 110th Street station on the No. 1 line — where Steinberg almost lost his life.
On July 6, Steinberg got to the station before dawn for his early work shift when he saw a man approaching him on the mezzanine. Tareyton Williams, a strip club bouncer with a history of drug arrests, had swiped two power saws left by crews at the station. Without saying a word, he went after Steinberg, cornering him in the station and hacking him in the chest.
“I was losing a lot of blood,” said Steinberg, a married man with an elderly mother. “I was saying, ‘God this is it.’”
The only other person in the station was Debra McIver, the token booth worker. The Manhattan woman frantically called for help using the emergency button equipped in all booths. In 2008, workers pressed the devices 171,370, according to agency figures.
“Our presence there is a deterrent to crime,” said Maurice Jenkins, the union head for stations, who estimated that workers call for help 50 times a day.
Police arrived just in time to rescue Steinberg and get him to St. Luke’s Hospital. The pain of inserting a breathing tube in his chest was so bad, that Steinberg had to clench a wooden board between his teeth.
Williams, who later apologized, was sentenced to 18 years prison. After extensive physical therapy, Steinberg has recovered, but suffers some lung damage. He still rides the subways, and will testify about the need for station agents during a Manhattan public hearing Thursday.
A transit spokesman said that crime in the subways is at historic lows, and transit cops will “ensure that trend continues.”
It hasn’t even started running yet, but the Second Avenue Subway could already get hit by a service cut.
As part of the proposed service reductions, the MTA is looking to replace the W train with the Q line in Queens by this summer, saving $3.4 million. But that could strand riders of the new Second Avenue line, which is supposed to link up with the Q to allow riders to continue traveling south.
“Obviously you can’t do both,” said William Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.
The Q train couldn't easily service both Astoria and the Upper East Side because different tunnels go there.
What happens to the Q won’t be determined until” December 2016, when the first stretch of the subway opens, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.
The MTA is holding its last public hearing on the service cuts today at 6 p.m. at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Seventh Avenue at 27th Street. Hundreds of people are expected to rally against the cuts outside FIT at 5 p.m.