Mass vandalism of subway windows snags New Yorkers’ morning commute

Unknown vandals broke dozens of subway windows and snagged the morning commutes of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers endured a frustrating morning commute on Wednesday after vandals broke dozens of windows on subway cars, the MTA announced.

Over the course of a 24-to-36-hour period, an unknown assailant or group of assailants smashed 78 windows on 36 different subway trains, forcing the MTA to take those cars out of service for repairs. Windows were broken on the B, D, N, Q, R, and W lines.

The greatest impact was felt on the W, where service was fully suspended Tuesday afternoon and remained out of commission for the morning rush hour on Wednesday.

“To have a group of individuals or individual disrupt the commute of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and probably cost us tens of thousands, if not more, dollars to repair these windows is outrageous,” said MTA New York City Transit President Rich Davey. “It might seem like a prank, or I don’t know what is in the mindset of these criminals, but it sure as hell ain’t helping us deliver service for New Yorkers.”

Davey told reporters that the bill to repair the defaced property could reach up to $500,000.

Police have yet to identify the perpetrators, but say they suspect it’s only a matter of time due to the ubiquity of surveillance cameras in the subway system.

Still, the details remained unclear as of Wednesday morning. Officials say the vandals appeared to have smashed the windows from the inside of cars, rather than from the outside. However, they couldn’t immediately say where the vandalism took place or whether the trains were in service at the time. Officials also didn’t know what tool was used to break the windows, nor the motive.

The acts of vandalism constitute felonies, and Davey said the MTA and the police fully intended to “throw the book” at those responsible.

MTA crews worked through the night to replace the broken windows.Marc A. Hermann / MTA

“If you do this, you will be caught, and we will throw the book at you,” said Davey. “If I have to go to court every single time and remind the judge, jury, and anyone else that this impacted hundreds of thousands of commuters who couldn’t be there that day to express their outrage, I’ll do that too.”

Service on the W line was canceled to ensure that the N line, which shares the right-of-way in Queens and most of Manhattan, had enough service capacity to keep running, said the MTA’s subways chief Demetrius Crichlow. Crews had repaired 25 trainsets by Wednesday morning and were working to restore trains into service by the evening rush hour.

Window restoration is complicated by the lines the vandalism took place, which predominantly use older rolling stock like the R46, introduced in 1975, and the R68, which came on the scene in 1986. The age of the cars means the authority has a limited supply of replacement windows on hand, while procuring new ones runs into supply chain issues, said Davey. As such, the authority took to “stealing” windows off stationary cars sitting at trainyards to put on trains entering service.

While Davey vowed to bring the vandals to justice, the perpetrators might sleep well knowing a similar string of crimes in recent years was never officially solved. In 2020, a vandal caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage by repeatedly breaking windows on 7 trains, leaving commuters frustrated with constant delays.

This is a developing story and will be updated. Those with information about the vandals are encouraged to call NYPD CrimeStoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.