MIDTOWN — Police are on the hunt for three teenage girls who assaulted and attempted to rob a woman in the A/C/E station at West 50th Street and Eighth Avenue in broad daylight last month.
Civil engineer Kelly Chorba, 32, said she was on her way home from work on the west side at about 5:40 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 19 when she entered the station at West 49th Street and saw three young girls, who appeared to be about 16 or 17, standing on a landing and at the foot of the stairs.
As she descended, the young girls pounced on her.
“They converged on me and started punching and hitting from every direction. They started ripping at my clothes and grabbing my bag,” said Chorba, who said she held her purse, which held her laptop computer, tight against her side while trying unsuccessfully to fight them off.
“At that point I realized I just wasn’t going to be able to defend myself against the three of them and I screamed,” she said. The sound sent the girls fleeing into the station through an emergency exit that had been propped open before the attack.
“It was horrible,” said Chorba of the incident, which left the left side of her face red, swollen and badly bruised. Chrorba was immediately attended to by ambulance personnel, but declined transportation to a hospital, a Fire Department spokesman said. She visited her doctor and received a full CT scan the next day, she said.
While the case is under investigation, with sketches of two of the girls now posted through the station, Chorba said she has little faith her assailants will ever be captured because of one surprising fact: there is not a single surveillance camera in the busy station that police can turn to to review following an incident, according to a detective on the Manhattan Robbery Squad assigned to the case.
An MTA spokesman insisted the station does have security cameras, but said they only provide live feeds, so they can't be used in investigations. He declined to disclose how many cameras there are in the station or where they’re installed.
“We don’t have security [cameras] anywhere in the station,” said an MTA station attendant who declined to give his name for fear of losing his job. Instead, he said police are typically used to monitor the station, especially during the after-school rush.
The immediate area is home to about half a dozen high schools, attracting more than 50,000 students each and every day, who are a constant source of neighborhood complaints.
But the lack of cameras is being addressed.
The MTA and the NYPD are currently working on a project to significantly increase the number of both kinds of cameras underground. As part of the rollout, nearly 4,000 cameras have already been installed in subway stations across the city, with an additional 200 set to come online over the next couple of months, the MTA spokesman said.
“We push and push constantly,” said one executive officer in the Midtown North precinct, on efforts to expand surveillance underground.
Chorba said she was shocked there weren't recording cameras already.
“It would have made a huge difference,” Chorba said, adding that had the cameras been publicized, that likely would have deterred the girls who staged the attack.
To make matters worse, she said that because the incident was misclassified at first as an assault, there was a delay in the investigation, which meant that footage taken by local business surveillance cameras had already been wiped by the time the investigation began.
“I think it’s irresponsible to leave it so insecure,” she said.
And while the bruises have faded, she said the impacts of the attack are long-lasting.
“I don’t feel safe anymore,” said Chorba, who no longer takes the subway home from work or after dark, and plans to avoid the station entrance from now on.
”It just makes you feel a little on edge all the time,” she said.
Anyone with information on the attack is being asked to call (212) 529 - 4481.