Workers at the station weren’t too keen on speaking to people following Tuesday’s subway shooting in Brooklyn. But they carried on with their jobs as they have since the pandemic, since failed terrorist attacks, and since 9/11.

According to TWU Local 100 Safety Director Earl Phillips, carrying on is one of the best ways to approach working in the subway. Like a football coach telling his cornerback to forget the last play when he was beat by a wide receiver for a touchdown.

“The next step when you realize that my members didn’t have no kind of bruises, you have to [check on] their mental state of mind,” Phillips said. “Because a member didn’t show blood or bruises, that don’t signify that they are okay. If you follow the history of our members, if it was 9/11, if it was the pandemic, our members will not run away from incidents. Somehow, it seems like it’s a part of their DNA.

“I don’t care how many years they have on the job. Ten years, 20 years, 30 years, 1-year-olds, we go right into action to assist an agent when needed. And that is exactly what happened,” continued Phillips. “They went right into action and became a part of the evacuation process.”

On Tuesday, April 12, a gunman wearing a gas mask and dressed in an orange, construction workers’ vest set off a smoke bomb and shot multiple people inside an R-subway train car at the 36th Street station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Ten people were shot, five are in critical condition and six others were injured. Police have found a U-Haul truck that they believe was rented by the gunman who currently remains at large.

Transit and MTA workers have the respect of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. Both expressed gratitude for their presence and their actions in a time where most would take flight instead of fight.

“My prayers are with the victims and their loved ones, as well as the emergency personnel and law enforcement responding to this situation,” stated Gillibrand. “I am incredibly grateful to the courageous New Yorkers who came to the aid of their fellow passengers and to the MTA train operators whose quick thinking saved lives—their bravery and fortitude represents the best of our state.”

Richards also said that all authorities need to work together to prevent another event of this kind.

“We will never cower in the face of such callous violence…The MTA, NYPD and all relevant agencies must conduct an immediate, system-wide review of subway safety and emergency response protocols to help prevent such an assault on our city and its people from occurring ever again,” Donovan stated.

Phillips, like New Yorkers on both sides of the political spectrum, believe that the increased intensity of subway crime requires more cops (uniformed and plain-clothed). But when the AmNews asked him about the number of cops already patrolling the subway system, he said that they haven’t been deployed properly.

“You can take hundreds of police officers and put them in the subway,” Phillips said. “And if you walk ’em on top of each other, it [the shooting] would still happen. Because it’s how you dispatch them.

“Our members, MTA workers, know the hotspots. We know the areas where people hide. They know the areas where people sleep,” Phillips continued. “It’s not about putting cops in here to address something politically. If you’re going to do something, let’s do it correctly. Remove the politics out of it.”

The AmNews also spoke with Robert Kelley, TWU Local 100’s vice president of stations department. He spoke about the usual protocol his workers undergo in events like these. Protocol that’s supposed to be practiced.

“There’s supposed to be a shape-up area,” said Kelley. “We’re supposed to go there and there’s supposed to be designated areas at each station. For our members, if anything like this arises, they meet on a certain corner or
location.”

The problem?

“Now, is this practiced? Absolutely not,” Kelley said. “Now it’s just a wake-up call. For the authority to understand—and when I say the authority, the MTA—to understand that they need to be more proactive and practice. I think that it’s necessary, right? But we’re tired from our end, the union side of the house. It’s going to take management for them to really wake up and see that these need to be taken seriously.

“[If] this is not the wakeup call,” said Phillips, “I don’t know what will be.”

The MTA recently touted the $1.5 million it would save capping OMNY fares (the New York equivalent of an Oyster Card). MTA board members have recently proposed an increase in fares across the city, while engaging in current experiments, continually citing its debt. With the money they do have, they’ve worked with the city to install cameras in every subway station. The ones at the 36th Avenue station couldn’t transmit to the MTA or the New
York Police Department at the time of the incident. Phillips thinks there’s a reason for this.

“Cameras are more designated in high-privileged areas,” said Kelley. “And when you have low-income areas and stuff like that, they don’t put the same care into low-income areas. And that’s a very big concern among us.”

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