When Devin Stagg and his wife Ashley moved from Provo, Utah, to Manhattan in March 2021, they were relieved to unload their cars. They live in Midtown West, close to the N, R and W trains, and were eager to avoid the hassle of parking.
But a little over a month after they moved, Ashley, a nurse, had a harrowing experience on the F train near Prospect Park.
A group of men riding the subway on a Friday night around 7 p.m. started making eyes at her and a group of other women. They pointed at their purses and moments later Ashley saw one of the men holding what appeared to be a sharp weapon. She was not hurt, but she felt unsafe, so she beelined off the train at the next stop. Now, the couple avoids the subway at all costs.
“It was this moment where you’re like holy s—t you hear about things, you read about things like this, but it hit home,” Devin told The Post.
As a wave of crime continues to terrorize the city, New Yorkers are foregoing the subway in favor of Citi Bikes, scooters and pricey cabs and Ubers that don’t fit into their budgets. From January through August of this year, subway riders and workers experienced 373 felony assaults, compared to 314 during the same time period in 2021, a surge of 18.8% according to the NYPD’s latest MTA crime report. The MTA’s most recent rider survey found that just 33% of riders are happy with their security on trains, while 70% want more police. Citi Bike, meanwhile, saw its highest ridership month in its history this past August, and memberships grew 10% year-over-year as of Sept. 1, according to a spokesperson.
“We pretty much exclusively opted for Citi Bikes and try to avoid the subway,” Stagg, who works in marketing, said. The couple have shelled out $185 each for a membership and they recently bought a $1,000 electric scooter as well.
“It’s probably safer to take a risk with New York City traffic and pedestrians than having to worry about the subway,” Stagg said of the scooter. “ [At least] you can ride safely and be a defensive driver.”
Lesley Koeppel, 57, a psychotherapist living on the Upper East Side, purchased her first Yamaha motorized scooter shortly after 9/11 for security reasons. These days, every member of her family — husband, son and daughter — has their own scooter, and they’re riding them more than ever.
“I do not take the subways. I don’t feel safe,” she said. “There are so many mentally ill and drug using people who are now going on trains for refuge.”
Her daughter, who attends Fordham College at Lincoln Center, has had some especially bad experiences on the subway in recent months.
“She got into an empty car and there was a half naked man who started playing with himself – she can’t unsee that,” said Koeppel, adding that her daughter also witnessed a teen threaten other school-aged kids by patting his jean pocket as if he had a weapon.
“She said it was petrifying,” Koeppel said. “I feel safer sending my 22-year-old daughter on a mini motorcycle whipping through the streets of Manhattan … You’re more in control versus a subway where you can’t control the environment around you.”
Morningside Heights-based Veronique Ehamo, a part-time teacher and PhD candidate, was horrified by the mass shooting on a rush-hour train in April in Sunset Park. Ever since, she’s been biking or forking over more than she can afford on cabs and Uber fares — and remembering simpler times.
“Years ago, I would fall asleep on the E train from Jamaica, Queens, to Manhattan’s 42nd Street stop without as much of a second thought,” Ehamo, 28, said. “I felt really safe. I would be on my phone with headphones in and didn’t think twice about who might be around,” she said.
But now, she won’t even take the train in broad daylight on most days, and when she does, she’s on high alert.
“I try to avoid eye contact,” she said.
Teresa Alessandro is more concerned with convenience than safety. She first got her zippy red Vespa in 2020 when she felt train schedules were unreliable. Ever since, the real estate agent has been thrilled with how much easier it is to get around around town for her job.
“I can drive across Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan all week long,” she said. “Above ground is a more civilized commute.”
Parents are also rethinking modes of transportation. Isabel Berney, the founder of Buggy, a private school bus transportation service based in Miami, is planning to expand to Manhattan in January because she’s seen a demand for it.
“Parents used to be okay with their middle schoolers taking the subway, but then this [mass subway shooting] attack happened and they’re uncomfortable,” she said.
Koeppel continues to love her scooter life, though she readily admits her Yamaha has its own safety issues.
“I don’t recommend that just anyone gets a scooter,” she said. “They can be extremely dangerous for most people.”
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