By Philip Newman
Subway riders rate the 51st Street/Lexington Avenue station, through which thousands of Queens commuters pass daily, as the city’s worst because of what they say is crowding, poor security, lack of cleanliness and difficulty of movement.
Nearly half (49 percent) of those polled said the Manhattan station was not only too jammed with people but dirty, unsafe and an ordeal to move through, according to the transit watchdog agency Straphangers Campaign.
Only on public announcements did those polled give a passing grade to the station.
Queens riders make up a good part of the multitudes that struggle through the 51st Street/Lexington Avenue station as they arrive on V and E trains, many transferring to the No. 6 on the Lexington line.
Better times may be in store for the station. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has awarded a $74 million contract to build a mezzanine level to relieve crowding.
In the poll, the issue that bothered riders the most was the crowded conditions with 58 percent complaining about it.
“Our survey shows that riders want more frequent service to relieve crowded subway stations,” said Farouk Abdallah, who oversaw the survey for the Straphangers.
The overcrowding reflects the large and continued growth in numbers of subway passengers. Between 1996 and 2001, subway ridership increased by 27 percent from 1.1 billion to 1.4 billion annually. It grew 38 percent from 1992 to 2001.
Riders were even more up in arms over crowding at the Penn Station/34th Street station. Some 81 percent of those polled complained about crowding at the station.
In Queens, 45 percent of those polled complained of overcrowding at the Main Street-Flushing station, while 30 percent complained about the station generally and 27 percent questioned whether it was safe.
The Straphangers handed out 4,300 postcards in taking the survey of 15 subway stations in four boroughs and riders returned 4,206 responses.
The Straphangers said it could not compare the latest statistics with those of its first such survey last year since it had made changes in which subway stations were surveyed and also altered the method of conducting its poll since last year.
The Straphangers Campaign, affiliated with the New York Public Interest Research Group, receives money from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.