The worst fear of many New Yorkers came true Tuesday morning when a man fell a horrifying 20 feet through an open subway grate in Queens.
The man, who was not immediately identified, fell through the grate near 24-20 Jackson Avenue, in Long Island City, after opening it to retrieve his keys.
Amazingly, he survived – and was only treated for minor injuries.
But the New Yorker Raymond Bethel, who spends his days walking the New York City streets as a messenger, says he’s wary of walking along the metal subway grates.
“You just don’t know what could happen,” Bethel said, adding he’s never witnessed a mishap.
If you do drop something down a subway grate, the MTA says you should alert a station agent or dial 511.
MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said grate accidents are “rare,” and the last accident was a few years ago.
The NYPD said no charges have been filed against the man. A police source said breaking a subway grate and entering MTA property could carry with it criminal mischeif and trespass.
Ortiz said the number of grates across the city wasn’t available, but that all are secured and locked. A report by PIX11 in 2014 estimated the number of grates around 39,000.
The new Second Avenue subway line will not have no subway grates by design, MTA Capital Construction Company Michael Horodniceanu told reporters on a recent construction tour. The air from the trains will flow above ground through ventilation towers instead.
Last fall, a man emerged from a subway grate in Greenwich Village before throwing a smoke bomb into Bar Pitti.
In February 2014, the city investigated a herd of zombies who opened the subway grates near Union Square, later reaching their hands through and scaring passersby ahead of the Walking Dead premier.
Perhaps the worst accident in recent years happened in May 2009 when more than 30 girls posing for a school photo fell through a grate in front of Yeshiva Shaare Torah. Some of the girls broke bones or were treated for head injuries, according to the New York Post, and the school was cited for failing to maintain the grate.
In 2007, Jessica Hinkmon, then 26, fell 10 feet down through a Con Edison grate. Eric Davis tumbled eight feet down a grate that gave way in 2008 near the Myrtle-Willoughby Aves. station.