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Subway musicians are scared to play because of violent crime underground

Subway musicians are scared to play because of violent crime underground

Subway musicians say they have something to “fret” about. 

Buskers said Wednesday they are sometimes frightened to perform because there’s so much violent crime underground — even as they vied for plum performance spots at MTA-held auditions. 

“If you’re doing anything like this, you have to look over your shoulder all the time,” said Joshua Oxyer, 26, who had just crooned a Justin Timberlake song. “We’re targets all the time.”

Alan Zavodsky, who plays drums for the New Orleans-inspired dance band New Thousand, said he’s had to dodge unhinged people.

“There are so many things happening from certain people who aren’t mentally well who are interacting with us,” he said.  “We’ve had situations where somebody was really drunk or aggressive and started knocking over our stuff, and he got dealt with.”

Dozens of musicians — ranging from reggae singers to DJs and accordion players — competed Wednesday for placement in the MTA’s “Under New York” music program.

Subway musicians are unnerved by recent violent crime underground. James Messerschmidt

During the annual auditions, officials pick about 25 top-tier artists to play scheduled slots at the city’s most popular subway stations, including Times Square and 34th Street.

But fear over subway attacks has reached a fever pitch in recent months after a slew of violent incidents, including a deadly shooting on a crowded train car in Brooklyn in March.

Overall, crime in the subway has become significantly more violent since the pandemic with the number of felony assaults soaring, according to recent NYPD stats. The number of attacks on trains that left straphangers injured jumped from 373 felony assaults in 2019 to 570 in 2023, an increase of 53%.

Despite safety risks, many musicians at the event said it was worth playing train-side tunes because it affords them money and exposure. 

Iain Forrest was attacked while playing his electric cello earlier this year. Aristide Economopoulos for NY Post

“There’s been 100 times as many joyous moments as scary and intimidating moments. The scary and tenuous ones are scary, though. They suck,” said Adrian Jusdanis, who plays violin for the New Thousand. “I think people who are playing alone are more at risk. Women, people of color are more at risk.”

In March, Gov. Kathy Hochul deployed hundreds of National Guard troops into the subway system to help police patrol stations and check commuters’ bags as part of a wider crime-fighting plan. Hundreds of extra cops were also dispatched into the system following a spate of violent attacks.

Jazz band The Outside In auditioned for the MTA’s Music Under New York Program. James Messerschmidt

Following the move, subway crime was down 18. 2% last month, compared to the same time period last year.

On Wednesday morning — just a few hours before the MTA auditions began — a 34-year-old man was stabbed in the neck and lower back at a Lower East Side subway station.

On Saturday, a 30-year-old Bronx man was arrested for attempted murder for allegedly opening fire in a Harlem subway station.  In late April, a former federal prosecutor was punched in the face by a crazed man while riding No. 2 train on the Upper East Side.

In February, subway cellist Iain Forrest, 29,  said he planned to stop performing after he was struck in the back of the head with a metal water bottle —  the second attack he’d suffered in the underground in a year.

The MTA said its Music Under New York program presents musical performances in the transit system to entertain commuters and give musicians a new platform.

The 25 chosen artists are allowed to schedule their performances at the transit hotspots and are given a banner designating them as a special MTA performer.

The agency didn’t immediately respond to The Post’s inquiry about performers’ safety concerns.

Additional reporting by Amanda Woods

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