On the line

MT-Logo-e1374037157906.pngBy Desiree Johnson

It’s likely to be a fresh summer of hell for uptown commuters.

State Senator Brian Benjamin, Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell and Councilmember Mark Levine gathered with transit and disability advocates on April 9 at the Frederick Douglass Circle to insist that uptown B/C stations be made ADA-accessible while being remodeled and that residents, especially those who require greater accessibility, be assisted and engaged during capital renovations.

“It’s a huge, huge wasted opportunity,” said Levine, who said the closures would be disruptive and that the renovations would amount to little more than facelifts without the installation of elevators.

As part of the Enhanced Station Initiative of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), renovations mean the 72nd, 86th, and 110th Street stops along the B/C line will all be shuttered through the fall.

The station, for example, at Cathedral Parkway (110th Street) will be closed starting this week until September 2018.

The group demanded the MTA create a plan for system-wide accessibility in the next capital program; that any major station overhaul make ADA access central to the plan; and the agency “immediately and dramatically” improve poor elevator performance.

“The MTA needs a good systemic evaluation,” said Edith Prentiss, President of the Disabled in Action (DIA) and Transportation Chair of the 504 Democratic Club.

“We are deeply dismayed that the major capital work will not include any improvements to station accessibility for the elderly or disabled. Moreover, we are disappointed the MTA has not implemented any temporary solutions to ease the burden of station closures on our community, including shuttle buses and increased M10 bus service,” wrote Levine as part of an online petition addressed to Chairman Joe Lhota.

The petition has thus far garnered hundreds of signatures.

Deputy Manhattan Borough President Matthew Washington said, “So much capital investment is going into this project and it’s not going to be accessible to all New Yorkers. It’s ridiculous we have to fight for this, but we’re going to fight.”

Of concern too was how long renovations would take, despite the announced timetable.

“We know six months can turn into a year in two seconds,” remarked Benjamin. “We’re not standing here against renovations. What we’re standing here is against the process of renovations.”

Attendees also railed against what they said was the lack of adequate notice provided to impacted residents in Community Boards 7,9, and 10.

“The notification to the community has been awful,” said Benjamin. “If we had had community input and communication at least three to six months in advance, we could have discussed all these issues and said ‘Listen, we really need an escalator, we really need an elevator.’”

“The people who live here actually have something to share with the people who maintain their city,” added O’Donnell, who represents the neighborhoods of Manhattan Valley, Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side. “The community demands and needs notification.”

Benjamin said he would introduce legislation in the State Senate requiring 90-day notice from the MTA to community boards when a subway station will be closed for repairs or renovations.

District Leader Cordell Cleare said she had spent Monday morning since 6 a.m. informing riders of the closure and observing the shuttle buses as they offered alternative transportation. She was not impressed.

“This is not how you do business,” she said. “It is an insult to the Harlem community.”

East Harlem resident Stefan Henry is a Program Assistant at the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled – and a wheel-chair bound commuter.

“I have to go to the Bronx to visit some clients,” explained Henry, who relies on the 110th Street station. “So this would have been a great station to have accessible.”

Christine Serdjenian Yearwood says navigating the subway system as a pregnant woman or a parent is “extremely difficult,” especially for pregnant women with health complications.

The founder and CEO of UP-STAND, a company that seeks to make transportation and public spaces safer and more accessible for pregnant women, was particularly concerned about the lack of elevators.

“Once you’re pregnant, if you have any type of health complication, [the subway] becomes very inaccessible without an elevator,” she said. “Elevators are really necessary to enable pregnant women and families to participate in and contribute to the economy and society.”

Levine encouraged residents to continue to press the MTA to ameliorate the difficulties for uptown commuters – and to continue to press the agency for comprehensive capital restructuring that took all riders into account.

“[Residents should] contact the MTA,” he urged. “In the short-term, demand shuttle bus service and expanded bus service to make up for the closure, and demand regular updates to inform the community boards. In the long-term, we need accessibility in the subway. We need elevators, we need entrances open, up and down this line. We want people to deliver this message to the MTA.”

The MTA noted that it was conducting a system-wide study to determine how to make the entire subway system ADA-compliant, and that 25 more stations are being made accessible under funding already approved.

“There is critical structural repair and functional improvement work being done here that when completed will benefit commuters for generations to come,” said MTA spokesperson Andrei Berman. “We are in contact with local elected officials and value our relationship with local communities – after weeks of advance notice and discussions we’re now closely monitoring local subway and bus ridership and will make adjustments as necessary.”

For the online petition, please visit https://bit.ly/2GNoXca.

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