By Madina Toure
Riders who take the LIRR train at the Flushing-Main Street station are in for a treat: new signage and platform railings as part of a $24.6 million project to renovate the long-neglected station.
Elected officials and community leaders gathered at the station last Friday to formally unveil the upgrades. The lawmakers gave a media tour highlighting the new “Flushing-Main Street Station” sign and the new platform railings.
The upgrades are the first phase of a project to completely revamp the station and make it handicap-accessible.
The next phases of renovations include the installation of elevators, a new ticket window and new staircases, platform shelters, entrances and lighting.
The dilapidated station has one entrance off Main Street for the eastbound side and another off 40th Road for the westbound side.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) has pushed for the station’s rehabilitation since the project was announced in 2012. “This is really exciting for a station that is really one of the city and state’s busiest LIRR train stops but also in an area that we believe more people could utilize the LIRR station,” she said.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said upgrading the station is necessary given the area’s growth. “There is a need to improve the transportation,” she said.
In February, the MTA reached a settlement with Ou Jiang City Supermarket, which it seized through eminent domain to clear the way for making upgrades to the station.
Stavisky said the ongoing issue between the MTA and the supermarket owner contributed to the delay in the project getting started.
City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) called the station a “disgrace,” pointing out the trash and bugs at the station’s entrance.
He called it “one of the worst of LIRR stations,” comparing it to the Bayside LIRR station, which he said is better kept. “Our station is worse than LaGuardia Airport,” he added.
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), who sits on the Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, which oversees the MTA at the state level, said the committee always presses MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast to improve stations, which he said would create more jobs.
“This is obviously very personal for the mayor of Flushing (Koo) because he takes the train almost every single day to go to City Hall and so I often see him commuting on the train,” Kim said. “We take the train together, so we witness some of the declining quality of life.”
Former Borough President Claire Shulman, who heads the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, said the project cost was initially $8 million.
“You can never do a project like this by yourself,” Shulman said. “You have to have a team, and this was an extraordinary team.”
Yonelle Baptitse, LIRR Flushing Station project manager, and members of the LIRR and MTA team were also in attendance.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour