QUEENS, N.Y. — Police are searching for a man they say struck a woman in the head with a hammer at a Queens subway station Thursday night.

The 57-year-old woman, a researcher at the city's Department of Health, was walking down the stairs leading into the Queens Plaza E, M, R subway station in Long Island City shortly after 11 p.m. when a man kicked her from behind and grabbed her purse, Chief of Detectives James Essig said during a news conference Friday afternoon. 

The man then hit the woman in the head multiple times with what appeared to be hammer, Essig said. He then ran away after the attack on foot with the purse in hand, fleeing south on Queens Boulevard and Jackson Avenue, according to police.

Police said the woman suffered a fractured skull, bleeding from the brain and lacerations to her face. She was taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she was listed in critical condition. 

Investigators said the attacker was last seen carrying a cane and wearing a black hooded coat, a black mask, blue jeans and black shoes.

“This is an unprovoked, brutal and appalling crime on a woman who was just trying to get home after a day’s work,” Essig said, after calling on members of the public who may have information leading to an arrest to step forward.

Police later said the woman, who has been identified as Nina Rothschild, noticed the man began following her shortly before she entered the subway system.

Mayor Eric Adams earlier on Friday said he was "really angry" about the assault. 

“You know, a robbery in itself is a traumatizing event. The person was just brutal,” he said in response to a question at an event on Staten Island. “And you know often here… people want to lean into the long term plan of dealing with, of not allowing the feeders of violence to happen, which is important, and I talk about it all the time, but darn it, we need to deal with those who are on our streets right now, that are dangerous, that are violent, that have a total disregard, and I’m not going to surrender that."

“A woman taking the train should not be struck in the head with a hammer, repeatedly, and for us to believe that dangerous people like that in some corners, that we need to say because they are in pain they should inflict pain, I don’t subscribe to that,” he added. “We need to catch him. He needs to be incarcerated. And whoever is causing violence on our streets and our subways, while we give them the emotional help they need, we need to get them off our streets.”

The NYPD’s chief of transit, Jason Wilcox, noted at the news conference that subsequent to the attack, the subway station had received additional personnel, calling it a “priority station for us.” 

In a statement, Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi commended Rothschild’s work ethic and promised to “do everything we can to support her in her recovery.”

“Our thoughts are with Nina and her family following this horrific incident,” the statement says. “Nina has worked tirelessly in service to her fellow New Yorkers and she is truly a public health hero."

Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-8477, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.​