The Killing of a Homeless Man on the Subway
May 5, 2023, 1:01 p.m. ET
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To the Editor:
Re “Subway Killing Both Stuns City and Divides It” (front page, May 5):
Politicians and ordinary New Yorkers are pouncing on a debate as to whether or not a subway passenger who put Jordan Neely, a distressed, screaming homeless man, into a chokehold, killing him, should face legal repercussions. Meanwhile, they continue to sit on their hands and not make meaningful investments in solutions that might fundamentally address the city’s crisis of mental illness and homelessness.
Mr. Neely represents just one of the thousands of homeless and mentally ill New Yorkers who exist on our streets, in our haphazard shelter system and often in the stations and trains of our subways. We encounter these human beings every day, and most of us simply keep moving on because contemplating the moral stain this crisis is on all of us is too much to bear.
Jordan Neely is forcing us to ponder that in many ways, we all share some responsibility in his tragic death.
To the Editor:
Re “Making Someone Uncomfortable Can Now Get You Killed,” by Roxane Gay (Opinion guest essay, May 5):
Never in all of my decades have I felt that my neighbors in New York were hateful. Never have I thought they lacked empathy. In fact, I have always considered that, though our city has its share of bigotry, New Yorkers come together to help each other. Now, in the wake of subway passengers harming and killing another passenger, a homeless man, I am at a loss.
Ms. Gay’s piece does the work of walking readers through incidents all over the country where people have been seriously injured and killed for making a mistake. But it’s clear that Jordan Neely’s death is something different. The media and politicians have raised people’s anxieties and put them needlessly on edge. That led to Mr. Neely’s death.
And unfortunately, in reading comments on Ms. Gay’s piece, we can see that empathy has not only cracked, but flowed away from a lot of us. So many comments say essentially “He shouldn’t have died, but …” There is no “but.”
- Dig deeper into the moment.
The other subway riders should have never laid hands on him, and New Yorkers are excusing a murder.
How safe are we now?
To the Editor:
As a subway rider, I don’t appreciate Roxane Gay’s gratuitous vilification of those who may have witnessed Jordan Neely’s death as coldhearted or worse. My children and I often fear riding the subway precisely because of people who scream and threaten and sometimes kill or shove others onto the tracks. Almost invariably we stay quiet and pray we are not attacked.
If some brave soul chooses to subdue him, he has our thanks. If the threatening person dies in the process, why the immediate conclusion that the prolonged chokehold was reckless and avoidable?