A man was fatally burned at the entrance of a subway station, a passenger was set afire aboard a train, and a third man was attacked on a platform in three separate incidents yesterday in New York City's subway system.

An indigent man known to police as Reilly (Shorty) Ford, about 45, was engulfed in flames shortly after midnight on the stairs of a subway station in midtown Manhattan, police said.

He suffered burns over 35 percent of his body and died about eight hours later. It was not known whether he was attacked or set himself on fire.

In Brooklyn, police said Michael Starkman 51, was asleep aboard a subway train about 3 a.m. when a youth set him afire.

They said the assailant threw lighted matches at Starkman, then stuffed newspapers into the sleeping man's clothing and ignited them before leaving the train. Other passengers smothered the flames, and Starkman was not injured.

In the third incident, Juan Vargas, 57, was struck on the back of the head, hie in the face and pushed toward the tracks at a subway station in Greenwich Village, officers said. Robert Cromarte, 36, of Brooklyn, was arrested and charged with attempted murder.