Alleged subway creep booked for setting train fire in Harlem that killed MTA motorist: cops

The alleged arsonist, identified by police as Nathaniel Avinger of the Bronx, is accused of setting fire to a 2 train in Harlem that killed an MTA motorman.
Photo courtesy of NYPD

A Bronx man picked up in Brooklyn on Friday for allegedly molesting a female MTA worker has been charged with setting fire to a subway train in Harlem in March that led to an MTA motorman’s death, police announced Friday.

Nathaniel Avinger, 50, of East 162nd Street is accused of torching a Bronx-bound 2 train near the 110th Street station early on the morning of March 27. The blaze wound up injuring several passengers and led to the death of Garrett Goble, 36, a motorman who was found at the scene unconscious on the tracks.

Cops said Avinger was originally picked up on Dec. 16 for allegedly groping a 41-year-old female MTA employee at the Utica Avenue station on the 3/4 line in Brooklyn. Detectives brought him for further questioning, and linked him to the March 27 blaze, law enforcement sources said.

About a month after the fire, on April 30, police classified Goble’s death as a homicide. Avinger was subsequently booked on Dec. 16 on a murder charge.

Law enforcement agents said Avinger rode the Bronx-bound 2 train, which emanated out of Flatbush, Brooklyn at about 2:15 a.m. on March 27. Just about an hour later, he allegedly set fire to the train car as it pulled into the 110th Street-Lenox Avenue station in Harlem.

Upon arriving at the scene, firefighters found three men and a woman inside the station suffering from smoke inhalation. Paramedics rushed them to Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in stable condition.

Firefighters then found Goble lying on the tracks near the burned car. EMS brought him to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Firefighters on the scene of the March 27 arson fire at the 110th Street station in Manhattan.Photo by Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

The blaze caused major damage to the both train cars as well as the station. The 110th Street stop had to be closed for 10 days for repairs.

But Goble’s death proved to be “one of the darkest, most painful” days in the subway’s history, according to acting MTA New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg. It coincided with the height of the first COVID-19 wave in New York City, during which hundreds of transit workers fell ill to the virus — with 126 of them dying of it.

“Each time we speak with Delilah our hearts are broken all over again and each time we spoke to police, spoke to Garrett’s mother Vicki, or spoke with Garrett’s friends at Transit, they broke again,” Feinberg said in a statement on Dec. 18. “Nothing will bring Garrett back to NYCT or to his sweet family. We are grateful to the police for their relentless persistence and hard work on this case. There should be no tolerance for any form of violence in our transit system.”