CSSS Campaign for Safer Subway Stations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2001
For further information, contact:
Ermena Vinluan or Margarita Alcantara-Tan at:
voicemail: (212) 894-3748, ext. 3365
mail: CSSS, c/o M. Alcantara-Tan, POB 507, New York, NY 10159-0507
CRIMEFIGHTING GROUP FORMS DUE TO
SEXUAL ASSAULT OF ASIAN AMERICAN WOMAN
In the heart of Chinatown in lower Manhattan, on January 29, 2001 shortly after midnight, an Asian American woman was raped, beaten and robbed at the Canal Street Station of the #6/N/R trains. In order to transfer from the number 6 train platform to the N/R train platform, the victim had to walk through a long, deserted and isolated passageway, where she was assaulted.
Vinluan, in a phone discussion with Sgt. Robert Stenrud of the NYPD Transit Division found that the Canal Street subway station was considered a high risk subway station. Nevertheless, Sgt. Stenrud said that according to statistics, the Canal Street subway station "is not considered a high crime station. But if I had to choose stations not to walk through I would choose not to walk through that station. Its so huge. If I put 5 cops throughout that station it would not be possible to hear somebody scream from some areas there. sounds get lost there. The design of it alone makes it a little more dangerous than most stations."
Perhaps crimes are not being reported by the commuters or community around this station. Sgt. Stenrud especially stressed the importance of community feedback to the police to improve the fight against crime. "Its very important for the public to develop a positive liaison with the police department. We are definitely willing to communicate. The public needs to express their concerns. And the police dept. needs feedback. We are a complaint-driven department. Our best tool is statistics. Whenever we get a pattern of problems at a station then I can deploy someone there The guys [at the station] are itching to go, if theres a good chance to end the situation. Theyre dying to go out there to do the work. If somethings wrong, if someone gets mugged or if we even get a phone call from someone saying they feel the place is dangerous theyll get on it."
In light of this recent crime, as well as the long history of sexual assaults of women at subway stations, a new community crime-fighting group has recently formed: the Campaign for Safer Subway Stations (CSSS).
Margarita Alcantara-Tan, Co-coordinator of CSSS, stated the groups mission was: "to develop public awareness popularizing preventative measures against crimes in the subway, to urge the New York City Government, MTA and NYPD Transit Bureau to make the Canal Street Subway Stations safer, and to pursue justice in the prosecution of sexual and violent predators in public places, especially the New York City subway system."
The victim of the January 29 sexual assault is a student at New York University. As a result, faculty, staff and students are mobilizing to bring about community awareness, and to target New York City officials, the MTA and the NYPD Transit Bureau to take more responsibility in securing the subway system. According to Ermena Vinluan, a member of FilCRA (Filipino Civil Rights Advocates) who is also a Co-coordinator of Campaign for Safer Subway Stations: "Our goals will be accomplished because our coalition has rallied not only the NYU community, but activists from various Asian, Filipino, feminist, and rape advocacy groups. These organizations are listed below.
Rocky Chin, a long time attorney with the NYC Human Rights Commission, spokesperson for the GRAND Coalition, and currently a City Council candidate, advised CSSS on the current struggle of the Chinatown community with the MTA regarding the Grand Street subway station, which will be using the Canal Street station as an alternative station while the Manhattan Bridge is repaired: "The MTA must be held accountable. Better Service and Passenger Safety must be made priorities in all our communities - including Chinatown & the Lower East Side!"
Ms. Vinluan had recent conversations with the office of Chief Michael Ansbro of the NYPD Transit Bureau where she learned of a survey that identified at least 11 subway stations that are security risks to commuters. "When I asked the NYPD for a list of these 11 subway stations they seemed to give me the runaround and no straight answer. But many New Yorkers already know of dangerous subway passageways in their very own neighborhoods or workplaces. These passageways should be secured with a combination of several of the following: closed circuit television monitors, warning signs, increased policing and/or closing off dangerous passageways during off-peak hours."
CSSS urges the public to write letters of concern or make phone calls to:
Hon. C. Virginia Fields
Manhattan Boro President
1 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007
phone (212) 669-8300, fax (212) 669-3380
Hon. Kathryn E. Freed
City Council, District One
51 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
phone (212) 788-7722, fax (212) 788-7727
Mr. Lawrence G. Reuter
MTA New York City Transit
370 Jay Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
phone (718) 330-4321, fax (718) 596-2146
Sample letters for the above individuals can be requested by emailing or phoning CSSS as directed below. CSSS also strongly urges the public to send letters to the Assistant District Attorney prosecuting the suspect for the January 29 subway station assault; she is Assistant D.A. Martha Bashford at the Manhattan District Attorneys Office, 1 Hogan Place, NY, NY 10013. Please refer to the case People vs. Kyle Birch.
The survivor of the assault shared her thoughts on the efforts of the organizing campaign: "The common misrepresentation of Asian/Asian American woman has clearly made a visible impact on New York City residents and commuters. We can no longer allow the stereotypes of sexual and political submissiveness to continue in our communities. CSSS will hopefully provide resources and a space for Asian/Asian American women to come forward and share their stories --in any language-- and for the public to realize that we will not allow for these types of violent attacks to continue in our communities."
The crime-fighting members of CSSS vow to have a supportive presence for the victim during the court trial. CSSS is also distributing an educational brochure for public awareness; brochures in Chinese and Tagalog are also available. The letter writing campaign as well as a petition campaign is also being conducted to pressure the MTA and elected officials. Last but not least, CSSS is holding a fundraising poetry/spoken word event called "Voice Up!," on Wed., May 2nd, at 7pm at Bluestockings Bookstore, 172 Allen Street, New York City. There is a $5 suggestion donation.
According to Vinluan: "The friends and family of the victim have been in great anguish for her physical danger and her emotional suffering. But now we are also very angry and very determined to hold the MTA accountable for safer subway stations and to put the District Attorneys office on notice that we will be monitoring the prosecution of the suspect in this case." Alcantara-Tan added: "It has been an amazing experience to see so many concerned individuals take action, rally together, and build coalitions. It is empowering to ally with other peoples and organizations that are also dedicated to combating violence against women."
In the US, 2 women are raped every minute.
It is estimated that one in four American women will be raped.
It is estimated that 84% of all rapes are not reported to the police
Within the past decade, rape rates have increased 4 times as fast as the total crime rate.
Rape has a devastating impact on the mental health of victims. 31% of all victims develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When compared with nonvictims, rape victims have been found to be 8.7 times more likely to attempt suicide.
CAMPAIGN FOR SAFER SUBWAY STATIONS URGES THE PUBLIC:
BE PART OF THE SOLUTION!
TELL THE MTA AND ELECTED OFFICIALS TO
MAKE SUBWAY STATIONS SAFE!
The CSSS Is Endorsed By:
Asian American Womens Alliance
FilCRA-Filipino Civil Rights Advocates
Gabriela NetworkNY/NJ Chapter
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault
NYU Asian/Pacific/American Studies & Institute
NYU Metropolitan Studies Program
NYU Office for African American, Latino, & Asian American Student Services (OASIS)
Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA)-NY Chapter
Take Back the Night of Rutgers University
The Street Harassment Project
United Sikh Association
Womens Self Defense Coalition of Rutgers University
V-Day: Until the Violence Stops
For more info, contact CSSS Co-coordinators Ermena Vinluan and Margarita Alcantara-Tan:
phone: 212.894.3748, x3365
or write to: CSSS, c/o M. Alcantara-Tan, POB 507, New York, NY 10159-0507.