New York City launches new push aimed at youth to stop subway surfing

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
NYC launches new push aimed at youth to stop subway surfing
As the school year gets underway, New York City is launching a push to draw attention to the deadly consequences of subway surfing. Anthony Carlo has the details.

SUNNYSIDE, Queens (WABC) -- As the school year gets underway, New York City is launching a push to draw attention to the deadly consequences of subway surfing.

On Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams, Schools Chancellor David Banks and MTA Chair Janno Lieber unveiled a new program -- developed by students for students -- to stop the dangerous practice.

They gathered at the 33rd Street-Rawson Street subway station, which has been popular with teens surfing, many times in the hours after school.

The initiative, also supported by Gov. Kathy Hochul, is called "Subway Surfing Kills - Ride Inside, Stay Alive." The city is turning to the youth for answers after five teens lost their lives subway surfing this year.

WATCH: NYC unveils program to stop subway surfing

"Each subway surfing death takes tragically strips young New Yorkers of promising futures," Adams said. "We cannot endure another tragedy on our trains. That's why we are partnering with the MTA on an innovative campaign to raise awareness, and we have recruited true social media experts to help lead it: young New Yorkers. Our young people know best how to reach their peers, and they want to help keep their friends safe. We will make sure that every young New Yorker understands: 'Subway Surfing Kills - Ride Inside, Stay Alive.'"

The initiative announced Tuesday will include:

-Public service announcements in stations recorded by students

-Digital signage across stations

-Student-created graphics and animations, posters and banners across stations and distributed in schools

-Physical palm cards distributed at schools and in stations

-School swag including planners, pens and pencils, notepads, and sticky notes

-Social media posts across platforms, including TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube in the form of posts, reels/shorts, and influencer collaborations

-Distribution of new student MetroCards accompanied by a "Subway Surfing Kills - Ride Inside, Stay Alive" palm card

-Anti-surfing messages on the back of some MetroCards for sale in subway station MetroCard vending machines.

Meta, Google, and TikTok are also making space available on their platforms to help amplify the new messaging campaign. Through a partnership with Hochul's office, Google is making space available for the campaign to play on YouTube.

That comes after Adams blasted the social media platforms months ago for not restricting subway surfing content enough. Now the tech companies are bearing down.

The NYPD is contributing to the campaign by deploying officers to stations on outdoor elevated lines and by conducting home visits with youths who have been observed riding outside of trains.

"A viral video is not worth your life," said DOE Chancellor David C. Banks. "Led by students from the High School of Art and Design, this campaign is truly made by students, for students, and I'm so proud of all the work and advocacy that has been done by our young people. Subway surfing kills, and far too many of our bright young students have died due to this trend. Today, and every day, I'm urging every child to ride inside and stay alive."

In June, a 14-year-old boy fell to his death onto the tracks after entering that station and climbing onto the roof of a Number 7 subway car. The victim, identified as Jevon Fraser, was taken to Cohen Children's Medical Center in critical condition with severe head trauma. He was pronounced dead a few hours later.

And the week before that another 14-year-old was killed while subway surfing in Brooklyn.

Windinson Garcia, 14, and Brian Crespo got on top of a Manhattan-bound L train at the Broadway Junction stop on June 22 and were knocked off when the train entered the tunnel before reaching the Bushwick-Aberdeen Ave stop. Crespo was killed while his friend Garcia was badly injured.

The MTA keeps statistics on people seen riding on top of trains or in-between cars. In 2019, 490 people were seen "riding outside of trains," according to an MTA report.

In 2020, the number dropped to 199, but then rose to 206 in 2021. Last year alone, that total exploded to a whopping 928.

According to the NYPD, as of June 23, arrests for "unsafe riding," which includes subway surfing, more than doubled from this time last year.

This year has already seen 139 arrests, compared to just 68 in 2021.

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