Dozens of Queens mothers gathered at the Astoria Boulevard subway station on Saturday to demand that the MTA add elevators to at least one of the new stations on the W line currently closed for repairs.
Upgrades will include structural repairs; new and rehabilitated station entrances; improved mezzanines and platforms; and other amenities like USB ports, digital screens and countdown clocks.
But many residents argue that the agency is neglecting to add a crucial amenity — an elevator. In October, elected officials along with transit activists held a press conference to highlight how difficult it is for people in wheelchairs and for the elderly to navigate the subway system without elevators.
On Nov. 4, several organizations including Hearts Across Queens, MOMally and UP-STAND rallied at Columbus Triangle in Astoria to highlight the plight of a constituency that they argue is not often thought about: caregivers with young children.
Megan Stotts, the founder of the 1,200-group called Hearts Across Queens, said she decided to help organize this rally because she personally knows how difficult it can be to navigate the city’s public transportation system while pregnant.
Stotts, an Astoria resident who works in the financial district, suffered from a placental abruption during her first pregnancy. The complication occurs when a woman’s placenta detaches from the womb. Her son, who is now 2 years old, needed many follow-up doctor visits after he was born.
During her pregnancy, Stotts had to walk up the 50 or so steps at the Astoria Boulevard station, and the stop near her office in Manhattan also didn’t have an elevator. She walked to a different station a mile away that had an elevator because she preferred the longer walk to trying to navigate the stairs.
Stotts’ child was also too small for a stroller, which is required to be collapsed when brought on to city buses, or a carrier. Instead, she was forced to spend “a ton of money on cabs” to transport her child to appointments.
“We want the MTA to know what a slap in the face it is for parents, the elderly and differently-abled people to close down our stations and inconvenience people for art work and for benches where people can’t fit,” she said. “I need those benches that they’re taking out. I need to get off my feet.”
Stotts is referring to the MTA’s plans to remove some seats from cars and instead install grab bars to fit more people in each car.
The expectant mother, who lives between the 30th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard stops, is also frustrated because an elevator that was announced for construction at the Astoria Boulevard station in 2012 has not been finished.
“I just want an elevator on the N/W line,” she said. “It would be really nice to have somebody on MTA staff representing families and expecting mothers because clearly with these renovations that’s not happening,” she said.
MTA officials previously told QNS that there is funding in the 2015-19 Capital Program to replace 42 elevators and 32 escalators and funding to make an additional 19 stations accessible. Some stations, they argued, are impossible to make ADA-compliant without complete reconstruction and track re-alignment.
“Increasing accessibility is a priority for the MTA and elevators are being added where possible, through the “Key Stations” plan to make 100 major stations accessible by 2020, as well as additional non-Key Stations being made accessible in the next few years via the MTA capital plan,” said MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek. “In Astoria, new elevators will be added to the Astoria Boulevard station, and the MTA’s fully accessible bus fleet provides strong service across the neighborhood – including connections to accessible stations nearby.”