The attack has been described as a throwback to the 80s and 90s, when robbing token booths by setting them on fire was a thing. A quick search of the New York Times finds several examples:
+ In 1988, a 39-year-old token booth clerk was killed at the Halsey Street station in Bushwick—the deadliest train station today—which set off a debate about the efficacy of fire-extinguishing systems in token booths.
+ In December 1995, the Times reported that a Queens token booth, set on fire, was the third such incident in the city in a month. A piece a few days later says "seven similar incidents in subway stations throughout the city have occurred over the last several weeks" and assures readers that one attack that past November, in Bed Stuy, was not influenced by the film Money Train (OMG watch this clip!); then-senator Bob Dole had called for a boycott of the movie.
+ In 2001, a man tried to rob the Flushing Avenue station on the G line by setting the token booth on fire, but the fire-extinguisher system (the same one that had been dysfunctional in 1988!?) "activated within moments".