Last year around this time, under very different weather circumstances than we’re having right now, hundreds of people were stuck on an A train in the Rockaways from approximately 10 p.m. on December 26 until 8 a.m. on December 27. This was during the blizzard of 2010, which most of us probably haven’t thought much about since our streets were plowed last January — although this year, in early December, the MTA finally admitted they’d forgotten about those unfortunate passengers, calling the omission “inexcusable.”
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the event, and Aymen Aboushi, lawyer for 22 plaintiffs who were stuck on that train, will be filing a complaint with the New York City Transit Authority on their behalf. Aboushi says the MTA’s recent admission of fault, which followed numerous meetings between the plaintiffs and the MTA over the past year in which plaintiffs told their stories of the incident, “does not give us what we are looking for because it is simply an admission of liability, not a remedy.”
We have a copy of the complaint, which lists the following among the various indignities (and downright awful things) the stranded passengers had to endure:
• The 5-car train stopped moving at about 10 p.m. at the Aqueduct station, stranding passengers “in freezing temperatures at an above ground station without heat, bathrooms, food, or water for approximately 8 hours.”
• The conductor refused to let people off the train despite them being at an elevated platform, resulting in “a deplorable imprisonment.” Promises of help being on the way were given, but none arrived.
• Heat stopped working on the train.
• During that time, passengers were grouped together into one car by the conductor “to use the collective bodies as heat.”
• With so many people in the train, many had to stand or sit on the wet or frozen floor of the train, which was developing frost inside.
• No water or resources were provided. Passengers “were instructed to relieve themselves” in between train cars — though some did so on the train itself.
• Some passengers called 911 and some called the MTA — each told the passengers to call the other agency. The conductor said that MTA HQ was not responding due to a “political issue.”
• When the train finally pulled into the next stop at around 8 a.m., passengers were instructed to get off and wait for the next train, and were not given food, water, blankets, or access to medical professionals or emergency responders. (The platform was also unshoveled.)
• Two trains passed the passengers without stopping — a third finally picked them up, 45 minutes after they’d gotten off the initial train, and hours after they’d boarded it.
• Many got sick after all of this.
The complaint, which will be filed in Queens tomorrow, includes counts of false imprisonment, negligence, failure to rescue, failure to plan, and failure to train and supervise. It asks the NYCTA to agree to develop a policy to prevent this from happening again — “which includes having a response and protocol procedure to mobilize first aid, having the red cross respond to assist passengers, providing blankets, food and water, as well providing the ability to Defendant for an amount to be determined by a jury of citizens’ peers, actual and punitive damages, and any other relief that Court deems just and proper.”
Aboushi tells us that he and his firm are doing the work pro-bono: “We simply see this as a great opportunity to make a big difference.”
As just reported today, the city has paid out more than $1.8 million in 2010 blizzard-related claims so far, with more claims pending.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 26, 2011