A bad afternoon at East 125th St.


Amidst a rigorous debate on platform edge doors and potentially illegal slowdowns, a pair of incidents forced the Lexington Ave. subway nearly entirely offline during rush hour yesterday evening. Matt Flegenheimer had the gruesome details, and they are gruesome indeed.

After initial reports that a man had been struck and killed by a train after a confrontation on a platform at East 125th Street in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, the police said that in fact the man had been killed and another was injured in separate episodes near the station.

The man who was killed had been on a train, defecating between two cars, when he fell on the tracks and was struck by the train, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.

In an unrelated episode, Mr. Browne said, a bloodied man with a broken pelvis emerged from the tracks at the 125th Street station just before the fatal accident. Mr. Browne said the man told investigators that he did not know what had happened to him. The Fire Department said the man was in serious but stable condition at Harlem Hospital Center.

No amount of platform edge doors will prevent some riders from defecating between subway cars, but maybe we should reconsider my point on subway restrooms? Or at least take a look at articulated trains?

82 Responses to “A bad afternoon at East 125th St.”

  1. Brian says:

    Say No to Drugs.
    Say No to Platform Doors.
    Say No to Slowdowns.
    Say yes to Bathrooms?

  2. Andrew says:

    Maybe we should reconsider our policy of using the subways as a dumping ground for the homeless.

    • Nathanael says:

      Maybe we should reconsider having people homeless. There are countries which basically don’t. It requires two things, basically:
      (1) comprehensive, publicly-run, publicly-paid-for services for the mentally ill;
      (2) comprehensive, high-quality public housing in large volumes

      Also important:
      (3) high minimum wages
      (4) welfare which is high enough to live on, available to everyone

      • To be fair, we don’t know if the man defecating between subway cars was homeless, suffered from mental illness or some other disorder.

        • Someone says:

          Or, maybe he was just obsessed with defecating in public places.

        • BoerumBum says:

          That being said, I think it’s a reasonable assumption.

          • R. Graham says:

            Actually no it’s not. It’s more reasonable to assume the person was not homeless as the homeless has more experience walking in between cars hence they would have a better time balancing themselves for such a situation….I can’t believe I just typed that but I’m standing by it.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Or, maybe he just really needed to take a dump? (To be fair….)

          Unless he was a kid acting on a dare, homeless AND mentally ill is probably a safe bet. Even if you feel the need to risk being caught defecating in public, there are generally safer places to do it.

      • SomeGuy32 says:

        Communism doesn’t work – it’s been proven over and over

        • BoerumBum says:

          Take that, Scandinavia! Your highest on Earth quality of life does not exist per some guy.

          • AG says:

            Boerum – Scandinavia doesn’t have a military industrial complex to deal with.

          • Eric says:

            I am reminded of the story in which the Swedish minister of finance visited the US, and boasted about how Sweden has a near-zero rate of poverty. His US counterpart replied that among Americans of Swedish descent, the poverty rate is also near-zero.

            (Still, government-funded health and mental health care is a good idea for any country. It is what is known as a “market failure”, where free-market economics does not apply, because we are not morally willing to accept the outcome that poor people die of treatable diseases when they can’t afford the treatment.

        • Someone says:

          Look at China, communism works perfectly fine, and they even have better metro systems than those of the US.

          • Justin Samuels says:

            China is not communist these days, its pretty capitalist. And while China has been building a lot of mass transit, they’ve massive pollution and air quality issues.

            • dungone says:

              China’s air pollution per capita is nevertheless much lower than the US. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....per_capita It’s also far lower per dollar of economic output: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L....._emissions

              Their economy has grown 10% annually for the past 20 years, which would have taken the US around 70 years to match at 3% growth. Which means that it’s fair to compare their total pollution in the past 20 years versus the total US pollution in 70 years. Moreover, a large portion of the pollution in China is outsourced from the US for products that we consume. We’d get similar levels of pollution here and pay more for the privilege if we weren’t outsourcing some of the worst industries to China.

          • AG says:

            there is nothing communist about China… they just have a one party system which calls itself communist… they are the most rabidly capitalist country on the planet… don’t let Fox News and CNN fool you.

            • Someone says:

              Actually, I’ve lived in China for a while. I can recall from my personal experience that China’s government restricted use of everything, including internet.

              • AG says:

                you’re talking about “democracy”… capitaism and democracy are not the same thing.

                • BoerumBum says:

                  Well, that being said, the original premise was ridiculous: Having living wage and a social saftey net makes your country communist. As well to say that without those things you live in an aristocracy. Fun to say, but it just isn’t true.

            • Eric says:

              They are neither communist nor democratic. They are a dictatorship where the government is combined with business, i.e. fascist. (Not every fascist state is genocidal like the Nazis – for example Italy wasn’t.)

              • Bolwerk says:

                I’d be rather hesitant to defend atrocities like those in Ethiopia and Libya, perpetrated by Mussolini’s government, as less than genocidal. After all, even Hitler generally refrained from using chemical weapons on the battle field. Regardless, the main thing distinguishing Nazis from other fascists isn’t their temperament. It’s their efficiency.

        • Bolwerk says:

          And, nothing he said has much to do with communism. Having a professional class of bureaucrats administer public services – including a welfare system sufficient to allow participation in the market economy – is, if anything, the epitome of capitalism, and has been proposed by none other than Milton Friedman.

      • Justin Samuels says:

        When NY was more generous with welfare and actively building housing projects, people from around the country and the world moved here. CRIME went up tremendously in those days.

        Don’t get me wrong, mental health services are important, but if you have lots of services that make it easy for people to get by, all you do is attract underclass people who don’t work, and mentally ill people who don’t work. Who wants to live next to all that?

        Thank god Clinton signed welfare reform, and thank god Giuliani and Bloomberg made cuts in NYC welfare system.

        To tell you the truth, NYC should do like Chicago. Demolish its housing projects and settle people elsewhere. Warehousing poverty like that just increases misery.

        • jtown says:

          WOW. Thank god people like you are for the most part kept out of public policy debates in big cities (unfortunately, you’d fit perfectly with the current congressional majority). Let’s push the economic and social costs of homelessness onto society instead of saving taxpayer dollars by tackling the issue upfront! All in the name of fairness!

          • Michael K says:

            Actually, Many back people migrated north to NYC because they had a chance here – Down south in Mobile, Atlanta or Birmingham they had almost zero chance with Jim Crow laws on top.

            Were they wanted or welcomed in the north? No, since many northerners saw this as a southern problem being forced upon the north, where Italian, Irish and Jewish immigrants had just claimed their place in the local social order.

            In hindsight, a massive social services program would have went a long way to lift an entire generation of blacks out of poverty one and for all – but the northern taxpayers paid for a half-assed program that was underfunded and could not provide the support the new migrants neede to keep their lives in order.

            This lead to the chaos of the massive housing project – which concentrated all of the bad things in one place.

            • AG says:

              just for the record – when most of the public housing projects were built they were inhabited by whites… not blacks or hispanics… which came later.

              in fact – you had to keep your apartment up to standard or risk being kicked out. it was later on that minorities were funneled into public housing – as a way to keep them corralled… but it was not the original purpose.

        • Bolwerk says:

          What, are you on a BSing streak lately? I think you’d have to look a very long time to find anybody who moves to New York to enjoy the benefits of its banana republic social services system. Even the last wave of African American emigrants from the south in the 1970s at least thought they might get opportunity here, even as industrial jobs were leaving. Meanwhile, both getting into the system and staying in the system in NYC were practices in desperation before Giuliani reared his ugly head.

          As for revanchist housing projects, yeah, they should go – and get replaced, carefully, by the traditional urban density you hate so much.

          • Justin Samuels says:

            No, not currently, Giuliani gutted the system, and Bloomberg continues to gut the system. No one would move here these days to get welfare, particularly when it would be extremely difficult to get housing.

            However, 70s-90s people did indeed move to NYC because its welfare benefits were more generous than what you’d get in other states.

            • Bolwerk says:

              Almost nobody would have moved here in the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s to get welfare (a federal program anyway) either – unless they’re falling for the same hamfisted propaganda you are, anyway. NYC social services mainly consist of homeless aid and housing-related programs, and the class of people permanently in that system is almost entirely homegrown – the victims (or descendents of victims) of early liberal reformist housing programs.

              Not coincidentally, they’re among the most entitled and right-wing people left in NYC too. I suspect those are also the same people who best manage to exploit state and federal social services in NYC.

            • AG says:

              in the 70’s to the 90’s…. NYC fell apart.
              maybe a few came from other places did… but not the international migrants.

        • Someone says:

          And where is “elsewhere”? Is there even a place to put those displaced low-income people?
          I agree that centering thousands of low-income people into one district can be potentially deadly, but are you going to cause these people to be homeless, too?

        • AG says:

          talk to the ppl in Chicago… all that happened is the criminals migrated to diff parts of town when they demolished the projects.

          crime went up for many reasons in NY… but that wasn’t one of them. do you think the projects are worse than the slums they replaced???
          and just in case you didn’t know… foreign immigrants usually don’t know anything about welfare.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Yes, as far as crime is concerned, of course they were worse than the slums they replaced, at least given what could have been. Many of those former “slums” today are the most prized housing in the USA.

            About the best thing to come out of the Le Corbusier-style projects is Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, and they don’t even want to admit they’re a housing project too.

            • AG says:

              how would you know in terms of crime? crime statistics were not kept back then. I do know that any of us can access archives from the days before these project behemoths were built… and you will find plenty of rapes – assaults – murders by knife/ice pick/revolvers…. and those were in the days long before powerful handguns or Uzi’s and Mac-10’s. Go talk to some old Sicilians who knew what East Harlem was like before slum clearances… or some Irish that lived where “West Side Story” took place before Lincoln Center was built. Those were not nice places to live.

              when ppl refer to “projects” they are talking about “public housing”…. Peter Cooper and Stuy Town were modeled like Parkchester in the Bronx – which was built by Met Life. They were certainly not public housing.

              • Bolwerk says:

                I’m well aware there are plenty of grisly anecdotes about urban life in the mid-20th century. Fcuk anecdotes. We have pretty useful, if no doubt incomplete, crime stats going back to at least the early 1960s and meh ones going back more than a century.

                I don’t think there is much disagreement that urban crime peak in NYC and the USA was in the period from the late 1960s to early 1990s, and even then the peak of that was probably the late 1980s/early 1990s. The only weird part is nobody knows exactly why it happened or why it ebbed – or why some persists. Lead is being paraded as a cause this month.

                when ppl refer to “projects” they are talking about “public housing”…. Peter Cooper and Stuy Town were modeled like Parkchester in the Bronx – which was built by Met Life. They were certainly not public housing.

                Yeah, yeah. The city spent the money to slum clear the area and handed public and private property alike to MetLife – and the results are more or less the same kind of highly regulated housing, sans public ownership. Things like South Bridge Towers (south of the Brooklyn Bridge) aren’t called housing projects in that sense either for slightly different reasons, but the functional distinction is almost meaningless.

                • AG says:

                  I was talking about prior to the 60’s… by that time the projects were built.

                  i think the ppl who own their condos in Parkchester would be offended at you calling them “public housing”.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    I don’t know that I would call them “public housing,” since they are privately owned. I would call them “housing projects,” if you want to be really technical about it. They wouldn’t have been constructed had government agencies not condemned the property to build the, er, um, construction project.

                    I’m not clear what to call the quasi-private examples like Southbridge. They’re technically privately owned and publicly administered.

                    Anyway, housing projects are at least quietly recognized as near-universal failures now.

                    • AG says:

                      Parkchester went through a rough spell like many parts of the city did… but Parkchester is doing quite well. Likewise The Amalgamated Houses also (though I don’t recall any land being condemned to build it). Private housing “projects” tend to do well over time… public ones don’t.

      • Someone says:

        He could have:

        1) needed to go #2 and couldn’t hold it in any longer.
        2) been mentally ill and not known what a bathroom was.
        or 3) been homeless.

  3. Larry Littlefield says:

    Sometimes people do things that get themselves killed. There is a reasonable and unreasonable extent to which the broader community should be expected to save them from themselves, particularly if they are adults.

    The guy trying to crap in the system is basically the equivalent of a drunk driver or one texting while driving, except that drunk and distracted drivers kill others as well as themselves.

  4. Someone says:

    Say Yes to Platform Doors.
    Say Yes to Bathrooms.
    Say Yes to Articulated Trains.
    Say NO to train slowdowns.
    Say NO to Drugs.
    Say NO to crapping between cars?

    Or is the thought of maintaining NYCS bathrooms too much for the MTA?

    • Larry Littlefield says:

      How much extra are you willing to pay for the bathrooms?

      “I want everything for nothing” has been the attitude for 30 years. With some success. At the expense of sucking life from a future that is now the present.

      There was some sense that this guy was homeless, just riding around on the trains. We don’t know that. But if he was, then there are some bathrooms for those who know them. They aren’t pleasant, but they are there.

      And thanks to Starbucks, there are many more places to use the restroom than there was 30 years ago. That firm pretty much put a plan for paid public toilets, fought over for 30 years, on the back burner.

      • Someone says:

        The MTA could actually have paid bathrooms, as I mentioned in an earlier comment on another post. Those bathrooms could collect revenue for the MTA and collect enough money so as to fund other paid bathrooms in the system.

        • Larry Littlefield says:

          A State Senator got a state law passed banning charges for public rest rooms. It happened in the 1970s. And public restrooms immediately started disappearing, leading eventually to a public policy issue.

          Until Starbucks reversed the trend, and the issue went away. Trouble is, when I use a Starbucks I feel bad if I don’t also buy a coffee, which puts me back in the same situation an hour later.

          • Additionally, Starbucks can provide fewer restrooms these days.

            • Someone says:

              The article seems to imply that there are fewer bathrooms in 2008 than in 1968, but in actuality, the number of stalls in a bathroom has declined.

              • John-2 says:

                ADA issues have decreased the number of bathroom stalls, as even some of the original late-70s ADA spots were deemed too narrow and have been replaced by larger areas, usually requiring the removal of the adjacent toilet. That would be a question on any effort to install something like the self-cleaning bathrooms tried out on NYC streets over a decade ago — even if you could allow the state to at least allow a charge to pay for upkeep of those restrooms (via a Metrocard/smart card swipe), and even if you could put the facilities and the mechanics inside the existing-but-closed rest room areas in the subway, are the door openings in place wide enough to meet ADA requirements?

    • Bolwerk says:

      No, whatever, would be great but can take its sweet time, no, yes, please don’t?

    • AG says:

      there is a McDonalds right by the station… it’s obvious he couldn’t or didn’t want to wait.

      • Someone says:

        It’s also possible that he didn’t want to go outside fare control, ride the elevator, go into McDonalds, go back downstairs, and re-enter fare control.

        • AG says:

          that could be… but if it is – gambling with your life is more costly than paying an extra fare.

          • Eric says:

            What do you want, it is human nature to underestimate risks when you have a bodily urge.

            • AG says:

              i don’t want anything… what do you want?? a person should know self control… by my original point is that we don’t know why he was doing his business in between the cars… but its obvious that he didn’t want to wait… a Mc Donald’s right on 125th is not much further than if there was one in the station.

  5. Vicki says:

    The guy trying to crap in the system isn’t driving while drunk, because nobody needs to get drunk. Humans need to defecate, and if they have no other option, some of them will resort to “at least here nobody will see it” (whether that’s a vague desire not to offend others, or the hope of not being arrested, when there are almost no free public restrooms).

    • Someone says:

      …nobody needs to get drunk.

      But those people want to get drunk, for pleasure. There’s a huge difference there, and unless you reintroduced Prohibition, you can’t ban drinking.

      • Matthias says:

        No one is advocating prohibition, simply pointing out the difference between driving while drunk and needing to take a dump. We don’t know the story here–what do you do if you suddenly get the craps while on the train? He could have had diarrhea or any number of things.

    • Bolwerk says:

      He may not have known, but this happened at a stop pretty close to a public restroom. The MNRR station at 125th Street has one, if I remember correctly.

      • Tim says:

        I was at this station on Sunday (on a daytrip to Beacon) and the restroom was “temporarily closed due to police investigation”. Made me wonder how temporary the closure was for…

  6. Think twice says:

    Yes to platform doors. Definite yes to articulated trains. Get Proctor and Gamble to pay for the public restrooms; captive audience in the millions.

    • Someone says:

      Definite yes to articulated trains.

      Umm… so they can’t be separated. You realize that, right?

      Although these might make walking between cars easier, as well as increase capacity, it also limits the number of trainset arrangements (i.e. only 8-carriage trains or only 10-carriage trains, rather than 4-car or 5-car sets).

      • Bolwerk says:

        Coupling articulated sections would be possible. And I think offering 2-, 4-, 6-, 8-, and 10- car trains is mostly good enough. All in all, it could buy a studio apartment’s worth of extra capacity.

        Some IND stations may handle 11 60′ cars, but there aren’t many routes that are fully 11-car capable. In fact, I think the E might be the only one; maybe the C. From what I read, the G would need to terminate at Church, and most of the other letter lines use sections that were once part of the BMT.

        • Someone says:

          Actually, having 11 60′ cars is illegal under the current crew setup. You need a crew member for every 300 ft of train, and there are 660 feet in the train, so you’d need 3 crew members to operate the train; the third crew member is totally unnecessary. The 7 train has 11 cars only because it is 561′ long.

          • ajedrez says:

            Was there some kind of pilot program a few years ago to put 11-car trains on the (F)? (I know it failed because trains couldn’t clear the switch and all that) But I don’t think they needed an extra crew member.

      • Nestor says:

        Except for the oldest trains, carriages are already permanently attached in sets of four (JMZL with newer shorter fancier cars) (ABDGR with 70s orange and yellow, fake wood panelling cars) or five (Every other line). Two sets are usually put together to create what we normally see rolling around (except for the G because it’s the forgotten stepchild). We have articulation, just a half-assed version of it without most of the benefits.

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