The victim was sent tumbling onto the tracks into the path of a No. 7 train shortly after 8 p.m. yesterday at the subway stop at Queens Boulevard and 40th Street, said Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department. Police have tentatively identified the victim as a 46-year-old man who lived in Queens and worked in a printing business, which Browne declined to identify. He had no family in New York, police said.
The man’s body remained under the train for at least two hours after the incident while police investigated, said Lieutenant John Grimpel, a police spokesman. Detectives are searching for the suspect and have a video of a woman running from the subway stop, according to the police.
The suspect is a heavy-set Hispanic woman in her 20s, approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall with brown or blonde hair, Browne said. She was wearing a blue, white and gray ski coat and Nike shoes that were gray on top with red soles.
Witnesses said the woman was walking back and forth on the platform, talking to herself, police said. She took a seat alone on a wooden bench near the north end of the platform, and when the train pulled into the station, stood up and approached the victim from behind and pushed him, Browne said.
“The victim appeared not to notice her, according to witnesses,” Browne said in a statement. “He was struck by the first of the 11-car train, with his body pinned under the front of the second car as the train came to a stop.”
The suspect fled down two separate staircases to the street.
The 40th Street-Lowery Street station is just six stops east of midtown Manhattan. Its narrow eastbound platform, elevated two stories above the street, is packed at rush-hour with exiting commuters forced to slowly funnel down stairwells past riders waiting to board trains.
“It’s the urban nightmare,” Browne said, adding that the two incidents in one month didn’t indicate that there was a “trend,” referring to the Dec. 3 death of a man pushed onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train in Manhattan.
In the Manhattan incident, at the Times Square station, Naeem Davis, 30, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han, according to the Associated Press. Davis said he was coaxed into shoving Han onto the tracks by voices in his head he couldn’t control, the AP said, citing the New York Post.
“It’s sometimes in the back of peoples’ minds because of the incident preceding this one, but there’s no indication that it is related in any way or inspired it,” Browne said of yesterday’s death.
The NYPD announced earlier this week that there were 414 murders in New York City through Dec. 23, a 19 percent decrease from last year and fewer than the previous low of 471 reached in 2009. Barring a sudden spike in violence in the last week of the year, 2012 will mark the lowest murder total since comparable records began in 1963, Browne said. There were 2,262 murders in 1990, according to data posted on the NYPD’s website.
Today, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement that 2012 also saw the fewest number of shootings on record, with 1,353 as compared with a previous low of 1,420 in 2009. Shootings have decreased by 8.5 percent so far this year compared to 2011 and 14.5 percent since 2001, Bloomberg said. The mayor is majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News.
The No. 7 train extends from Times Square in Manhattan into Queens, terminating in the neighborhood of Flushing, east of LaGuardia airport. Police suspended service at the 40th Street station through the night while the investigation proceeded, reopening it to the public before the morning rush-hour. By 7:30 a.m., there was no visible indication of the incident.
Adam Lisberg, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said today there’s not much the agency can do beyond warning people to stay away from the tracks on platforms. He said barriers between platforms and trains used in some transit systems, such as those used on platforms serving the AirTrain between the Jamaica area of Queens and John F. Kennedy International Airport, aren’t suitable for the subway.
The subway system uses several different trains with doors in different positions so there’s no uniform way to place the gates, and the cost would be prohibitive, he said.
“If we lived in a world of completely available unlimited dollars there may be a way to” prevent such incidents, said Joseph Lhota, the MTA chairman. “I don’t think this is something that can be solved by spending more money in the subway system.”
Lhota said that he encourages“ all New Yorkers to stand back from the edge of the platform.”
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