New York City to try installing subway barriers after attacks leave riders on edge

The move comes five weeks after a 40-year-old woman, Michelle Go, was struck and killed by a train at the Times Square subway station after an assailant shoved her onto the tracks.

 People line up at a COVID-19 testing site in Times Square during the coronavirus disease pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, December 17, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI/FILE PHOTO)
People line up at a COVID-19 testing site in Times Square during the coronavirus disease pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, December 17, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI/FILE PHOTO)

New York City will experiment with installing barriers or doors on a few subway platforms, the city's transit chief said on Wednesday, with residents on edge over a rise in violence against riders.

The move comes five weeks after a 40-year-old woman, Michelle Go, was struck and killed by a train at the Times Square subway station after an assailant shoved her onto the tracks without warning. 

The barriers can only be installed in some subway stations, Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Janno Lieber told local NY1 in an interview posted to the MTA website on Wednesday, because the aging system was not built to accommodate them.

New York Subway, May 1, 2018 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)New York Subway, May 1, 2018 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

"It doesn't work in a lot of places," Lieber said, adding that the installations would be tried in Times Square and two other busy stations and possibly expanded if found to be successful.

"We're also going to be piloting new technologies to detect track incursion using thermal technology, using laser technology, so we can know quicker when people get on the tracks and hopefully, interdict that kind of behavior," he said.

The city will also deploy teams of police officers and mental health workers to remove homeless people from stations and "get rid of disorderly activity" such as drug use that have contributed to a sense of unease among riders, Lieber said.

Police arrested a 61-year-old man in Go's Jan. 15 death, saying the paroled felon appeared to be mentally ill and homeless and may have chosen his victim at random. Despite that characterization, activists say Go may have been targeted because she was Asian, part of a surge in hate-driven attacks against Asian Americans in New York City and elsewhere.

Earlier in January a man was stuck and killed by a subway train while attempting to help a man who had fallen onto the tracks after being attacked by a group of assailants. Two people have been charged with murder in that case.