"We don't come to work to go home with blood on our uniforms," said Transport Workers Union President Tony Utano.
Utano says it's outrageous. He says violent crime in the transit system is putting lives at risk -- both the riders and the unionized workforce that move along the streets and underground.
In recent months, riders have been shoved and beaten and transit workers have been attacked.
There have been random, senseless assaults and many of them were by emotionally disturbed people.
"My members are getting assaulted every day. Every day. Every day they're getting spit on, they're getting punched," Utano said. "I don't go by statistics, I go by what's happening and what's happening is, my people are getting assaulted. The public is getting assaulted."
Utano and the leaders of several of the city's largest labor unions sent an open letter to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea demanding more officers to patrol the subways and the buses.
Daily ridership is off by more than 50% and transit officials say many are believed to be avoiding the subway out of fear.
Yet the Chief of the NYPD's Transit Division told an MTA hearing last week that crime is actually down compared to the same period last year.
"It's a disservice to New Yorkers to advance a narrative that crime is soaring in the subways when that is simply not the case," said NYPD Transit Division Chief Kathleen O'Reilly. "Crime is at record lows at almost every category and we have every interest in driving it even lower."
Transit officials insist the numbers are misleading.
"The reality is we have 1/3 of the riders, and the crime numbers have gone up a bit," said interim NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg.
The city's leading business group said perception matters.
"Harassment and intimidation," said Partnership for New York CEO Kathryn Wylde, "has discouraged a return to the workplace. Increasing the sense of personal safety on transit is essential to the city's recovery."
"You want to bring tourism back here, and then what? Have them get spit on and assaulted," Utano said. "You need to fix the subway. The subway ridership is starting to pick up, the trains are cleaner. We want more ridership, we want more people on the trains, but we don't want to get beat up."
RELATED | MTA survey suggests it's not just COVID keeping riders away from subway
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