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Gov. Cuomo Blasts Rash Of Attacks On MTA Workers: 'Public Employees Must Be Protected'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The search is on for a suspect accused of attacking another Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker.

The assault raises concerns for the transit workers union, which has been calling for more protection, CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported.

"Public employees must be protected at work and these attacks must stop," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference in the city on Monday.

Surveillance video appears to show a man in a red and black track suit walking away from the 1 train platform in the 145th street station, only to turn around and punch a cleaner with the MTA in the face before leaving. Police said the attack at around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday was unprovoked.

"I've seen the video. I was disgusted by it. It's appalling," NYC Transit Authority President Andy Byford said. "There are far too many attacks on transit workers. Again, decent people that are just doing their jobs."

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One transit worker told Cline-Thomas he was hardly surprised by the incident.

"It's a sad state to be in. You shouldn't have to think that coming to work every day, providing for your family and wanting to go home at the end of your shift," the worker said.

CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reports:

It's the latest in a long list of attacks on transit employees.

Last month, a train operator still had a black eye and a bump on her forehead when she spoke out about her attack.

"As I turned around, a 6-foot, 200-pound man punched me in the face," a worker identified as "Sandra" said.

And in April, police say a man threw urine at two separate MTA employees. Also that month, police say an emotionally disturbed man stabbed a train conductor who was sitting on a bench at the 149th Street/Grand Concourse station.

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"I think they should stand up for themselves, 'cause I would fight back," Harlem resident Alphonso Collins said.

Sources told Cline-Thomas the suspect in the latest incident is emotionally disturbed. The transit worker was taken to the hospital with a cut to his face.

The MTA it's reaching out to elected leaders to get stiffer penalties for offenders and even ban them from the transit system.

"Hundred serious incidents, 1,200 incidents of harassment. We cannot allow it," Cuomo said. "[The workers] do not deserve it. They need more protection. The [Transport Workers Union], which is their union for many of the workers, has been complaining about it and they are right."

Web Extra: Gov. Cuomo's MTA Announcement:

The targeting of agency workers isn't the only problem underground. Cuomo said he's concerned about a dramatic spike in fare evasion, which is expected to cost the MTA $260 million this year. All of it has led the governor to order more cops to patrol subway and bus stations, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

"One of the most important operations for the MTA is public safety," Cuomo said. "Run the trains and run the trains safely."

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The plan is to add 500 cops -- some from the NYPD and some from the MTA -- to patrol 50 subway stations and 50 bus routes that have the most number of attacks and cases of fare evasion.

In addition, Cuomo convinced Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance to contribute $40 million in funds from forfeiture cases to help crack down on fare evasion. The money will study different station designs to make evasion more difficult and include the installation of video cameras.

Vance said it's not fair for fare evaders to get arrested.

"If you are an individual and you drive through an EZ toll you're not going to get arrested. You're going to get a ticket," Vance said. "There are thousands of people who double-park their cars in New York City every day. They don't get arrested. They get a ticket."

Officials say fare evaders will get a $100 ticket.

"Anybody who's jumping the turnstile and evading fares, they're not gonna show up for a court date. They're not gonna pay a ticket. And how are you going to find them because they're not going to give you the right name," Upper West Side resident Melanie Vaughan said.

There also may have been a little politics at play, since the Transport Workers Union has been bashing presidential wannabe de Blasio for failing to address the attacks against transit workers. The new police contingent includes 200 from the NYPD, something the mayor had to rubber stamp.

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