Chiu fell asleep in the stifling Clark Street Station in Brooklyn Heights after giving a concert with his ensemble at Bargemusic; along with the violin, his backpack, laptop and a valuable bow were taken. He alerted the police immediately and through rare-violin dealer Christoph Landon, was able to disseminate word to luthiers, lest someone try to sell the instrument.
Worth around $100,000, the violin was made in 1913 by Stefano Scarampella, who is often compared to Giuseppe Guarneri.
"I was paralyzed," the 36-year-old Chiu told the The New York Times of his first reaction.
The Juilliard and Yale graduate from California had been playing on the instrument for 13 years. It was given to him by his parents, who were robbed recently at Hong Kong International Airport.
"They turned away from their cart and somebody took a handbag with their passports. They were blaming me that I didn't learn from their lesson," the Times reported Chiu saying.
Nearly one week later, a transit official from the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue station called Chiu asking if he was missing something. After Chiu described what was in his violin case, "[the offical] said there were a bunch of bow ties in it and I knew it was mine."
Though the instrument suffered only a minor scratch, his laptop and backpack were not returned. The thief did, however, put in a plastic bag sheet music, programs and a number of CDs he initially removed from the violin case's zippered pocket.
"I need to guard my possessions better. I've learned a big lesson," Chiu told the New York Daily News.