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City Transit Workers Detail Attacks At Conference

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MTA and NYPD officials vowed to combat attacks of transit workers after hearing stories of workers being attacked at a transit assault conference Thursday in Brooklyn. NY1's Tina Redwine filed this report.

Train conductor Sidney Corniff says he was leaning out of his conductor's window at the 207th street station last month when a passenger walked up and hit him.

"[It was] like a frying pan just hit my head and all I saw were stars and next thing I know, I was on the floor," he said.

On Thursday, dozens of transit workers spoke out about being attacked by passengers at a first-ever transit assault conference held at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.

"At first I was afraid because I didn't know what happened. Once I realized what happened, I felt so much anger and I felt so violated," Corniff said.

The conference was sparked by what the the MTA and Transport Workers Union said was a 30 percent increase in assaults last year.

The union says on average, five passengers spit on, intimidate or hit a bus or subway worker every week.

"If five cops were getting assaulted a week, they'd bring out the National Guard," said TWU President John Samuelsen.

MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota said that while he and the union agree on little, they do agree that these assaults must end.

"An attack on anyone of you is an attack on all of us," he said.

The issue was serious enough to attract four of the city's five district attorneys to the conference, along with an assistant to the Bronx DA.

They agreed with the MTA Inspector General that the assault law needs to be strengthened so offenders could be hit with more than seven years behind bars.

"The definition of a physical injury has to be changed because right now, if you have a black eye or a cut on the eye which requires suturing or a cut on the lip, the courts have held that it is not sufficient physical injury to trigger the assault two statute," said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

75 percent of the assaults last year were against bus drivers, leading the NYPD Transit Police Chief Joseph Fox to announce that more cops will be riding buses as visible protection.

"If a cop gets on a foot post and rides for a couple of stops, it's in response to [Police] Commissioner [Ray] Kelly's directive," he said.

Going forward, the MTA says it will hold smaller meetings to make certain that it keeps a sharp focus on this issue.

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