A mugger bludgeoned a 57-year-old “hero” city health worker with a hammer inside a Queens subway station Thursday night – a horrifying assault caught on video and one of at least three random transit attacks within a few hours.
Mayor Eric Adams on Friday called the Queens attack “just brutal,” while Health Department chief Dr. Dave Chokshi described critically wounded victim NIna Rothschild as “truly a public health hero” who has been working “tirelessly” for the city.
Rothschild of Queens was on her way home from work as a researcher with the Health Department around 11:20 p.m. when the male suspect crept up behind her and kicked her, apparently trying to make her fall, as she was walking down the stairs into the Queens Plaza E, M and R station, according to cops and the footage.
Rothschild appeared to stumble but continued to make her way down the stairs, the video shows.
The attacker then pulled out a hammer and struck Rothschild several times on the head. He also tried to grab her bag before dealing another set of brutal blows, the clip shows.
He finally snatched her pocketbook – which contained two cellphones, debit cards, credit cards and an unknown amount of money – as his victim helplessly yelled, ”Stop!” and ran back up the stairs, according to the footage and sources. He fled south on Queens Plaza South, cops said.
Rothschild was taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition with a fractured skull and bleeding to her brain, according to cops and sources.
“From what she told me on the phone, she was just walking down the steps to get into the subway on the way home from work when she was attacked by somebody from behind,” said her brother, Gerson Rothschild, a scientist at Columbia University, to ABC-TV.
“She apparently remembers all of that, and she kept screaming, ‘Stop! Stop!’ but the person either wouldn’t stop, I don’t remember exactly what she said, but ultimately grabbed the bag with the cellphone and the personal papers and apparently some jewelry and ran off with it,” he said.
Chokshi said in a statement, “Our thoughts are with Nina and her family following this horrific incident.
“Nina has worked tirelessly in service to her fellow New Yorkers and she is truly a public health hero,” he said. “The Health Department and I will do everything we can to support her in her recovery — and we ask that all New Yorkers keep her and her family in their thoughts while respecting their privacy during this difficult time.”
Mayor Adams seethed, “A woman taking the train should not be struck in the head with a hammer.
“We need to catch him. He needs to be incarcerated,” he told reporters at an unrelated event. “And whomever is causing violence on our streets and in our subways, while we give them the emotional help they need, we need to get them off the streets.
“People want to lean into the long-term plan of… not allowing the feeders of violence to happen — which is important, and I talk about it all the time,” Hizzoner said. “But darn it, we need to deal with those that are on our streets right now that are dangerous, that are violent and have a total disregard – and I’m not going to surrender that.”
Adams unveiled a new subway safety plan last week that called for cracking down on rule-breakers and people living in stations and on trains.
Nina Rothschild’s neighbor, Marlina Smith, 57, called her “a nice person” who goes “about her business.
“It’s a shame,” she said. “They need to catch [Rothschild’s attacker] and put them under the jail.”
Another neighbor who only gave her first name, Martha, said she would often chat with Rothschild in the building.
“She works really hard. And I know that because she comes home really late,” Martha said. “She’s a woman who knows who she is, comfortable in her own skin.
“She’s just a nice person who spends a lot of time in the city,” the neighbor added. “And [she] is always willing, you know, to go and … ride the trains.”
“I think it’s time to leave this city, like a lot of other people,” she said.
An MTA worker at the station said Friday morning that he was shocked about what happened.
“Look around, they’ve done a lot with this area, so it’s usually pretty safe,” he said.
Pam Rowland, 54, of Harlem, who works in the area and rides the train at the Queens Plaza station every day, called the violence “very, very scary.
“You’re looking at everybody suspiciously,” Rowland said. “You know, born and bred in New York City and ride the train all my life, 54 years. And it’s just like we’re going backwards to the ’70s and ’80s.”
In a separate subway attack several hours earlier, a 35-year-old man was leaving the Franklin Avenue Nos. 2, 3, and 4 station in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, around 7 p.m. when a man slashed him with an unknown object on the stairs, cops said.
That incident also appeared unprovoked, cops said.
The assailant fled, and the victim was taken to Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in stable condition, cops said.
Meanwhile, around the same time on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, an attacker slugged a 33-year-old female conductor in the face unprovoked as she stuck her head out the window of an arriving No. 1 train at the 86th Street station, police said.
The male attacker fled, and the conductor was treated and released at Mount Sinai Morningside, cops said
.Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan and Craig McCarthy
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