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‘Subway Surfing’ Numbers Through Roof As MTA Warns Kids to Learn From Tragedies

A 7 train pulls into the 111th Street station in Queens, where a teenager was found unconscious after allegedly train surfing. June 24, 2022. | Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

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This article was originally published by The CITY on June 27

Reports of “subway surfing” have jumped by nearly 363% since 2020, according to MTA figures provided to THE CITY.

In the first five months of this year, there have been 449 reported incidents of people riding on top of or outside trains, MTA data shows — almost as many as the 461 in all of 2019.

That’s up from 97 for the same time period in 2020, when subway ridership plummeted by more than 90% during the peak of the pandemic and from 68 last year.

“We have hundreds of recorded incidents that this has occurred in our system in the last few months,” Richard Davey, president of New York City Transit, said Monday during an MTA committee meeting. “I am going to implore anyone who is watching this to tell your kids, to tell your friends: Do not do this.”

The MTA provided the numbers to THE CITY last week amid a string of recent high-profile subway surfing incidents, several of which have been posted to social media.

On Thursday, a 15-year-old boy was critically injured after police said he hit his head against an unknown object while riding atop a No. 7 train as it approached the 111th Street station in Queens.

“Oh my God,” gasped Maritza Santos, 44, whose 14-year-son, Eric Rivera, was killed in November 2019 after striking something as he rode on top of a No. 7 train near Queensboro Plaza. “I can’t believe they don’t learn unless they didn’t see what happened to Eric.

“I’m just shocked that kids are still doing this,” she told THE CITY.

Santos, who has three other sons, said she was pulling for the unidentified teenager, who police said was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center after suffering severe head trauma.

“I pray that he gets well,” she said. “I understand what his family is going through.”

In a graphic video obtained by THE CITY, the teen’s legs dangle over the side of the train car while he lays bloodied on top.

The voice of a woman on the platform can be heard saying in Spanish, “I’m sorry, but this had to happen so that they stop doing this.”

The gruesome scene follows other risky subway stunts, including a June 12 incident in which at least eight subway surfers dressed in black were filmed while they ran on top of a train as it approached the Marcy Avenue stop in Brooklyn.

Last month, Sarah Meyer, the MTA’s chief customer officer, replied on Twitter that transit workers “hate cleaning up body parts of subway surfers” after someone tweeted to @NYCTSubway that “running on your trains is hella fun.”

“This isn’t the way to earn keys,” Meyer tweeted in response to someone who had posted “Hoping to be an MTA worker and get them keys.”

‘Reckless’ and ‘Inconsiderate’

Following Thursday’s subway surfing incident at the 111th Street stop, MTA’s chief safety officer Patrick Warren, called the daredevil acts “reckless, extremely dangerous and inconsiderate” because of the delays they cause.

On Monday, Davey repeated that subway surfing is both potentially deadly and delays trains.

“Please, please, please do something else with your time,” Davey said. “But surfing is dangerous.”

The increase in reported incidents of people riding outside of trains comes as ridership has returned to about 60% of pre-pandemic levels, MTA data shows, with the number of daily subway trips topping 3.9 million nine times in the first 16 days of June.

Transit workers themselves have also posted videos to social media of people climbing on top of trains from the open area between subway cars.

The top of a 7 train. Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

“It’s all about getting the message out there that it’s some dumb shit — it’s not safe,” said Canella Gomez, a Transport Workers Union Local 100 official who represents train operators and conductors. “It seems like right now this is just a fad and hopefully after this last kid got hurt, it stops.”

Lisa Daglian, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, pointed out that the increase in the dangerous game mirrors the rise since 2019 in subway track intrusions.

“I was on a train on the 7 and they were stopping the train and waiting for police because there were multiple people riding on the outside of the train,” Daglian told THE CITY. “I think riders are fed up — subways are not a toy and subway surfing is dangerous and disruptive.”

For Santos, the series of subway stunts make no sense and sharpen the pain of losing her son shortly before his 15th birthday. She noted that he would have graduated from high school this year.

“I will never be the same person,” she said. “It is a pain that doesn’t go away.”

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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