Astoria elected officials and the MTA have conflicting ideas about what upgrades are necessary for the 100-year-old Ditmars Boulevard train station.
The MTA announced this week that the station would undergo a 14-month, $22 million renovation starting in April to upgrade aging infrastructure, but politicians are arguing that the work does not go far enough, calling the upgrades mostly cosmetic.
“This is the spine of our neighborhood and it’s been impacted,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides at a press conference on Feb. 8. “To add insult to injury, the MTA this week announced that despite what’s going on at 30th Avenue, despite what’s going on at 36th Avenue, despite the fact that all this is being bungled, that they are now going to renovate the Ditmars train station, one of the busiest stations in our neighborhood.”
The 30th Avenue and 36th Avenue N/W stations were closed in October as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to renovate 30 stations around the city. In addition to structural repairs, the stations will receive amenities such as USB ports, digital screens and countdown clocks. They are scheduled to re-open in June.
But none of the stations will get escalators or elevators, which politicians and local Astoria residents argue are what the stations really need.
“What’s the definition of public transportation?” asked Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas. “It’s supposed to be accessible to the public. It’s supposed to be accessible to people with disabilities, our seniors and to young families with strollers and with children. Any upgrades, any money that we invest in public transportation should benefit the entire public.”
MTA officials argue that the station, which is 100 years old and has not received major upgrades, has experienced deterioration that needs to be addressed. The agency will replace the wooden staircases, the wooden roofing, structural columns, beams and girders that are holding up the platforms, which will be raised, and also replace the mezzanine and stair railings.
“Ditmars Boulevard and the other nearby stations on the N/W line are more than 100 years old, and have not received comprehensive overhauls until now,” the MTA said in a statement. “The longer much-needed repairs are delayed, the longer the repairs will take and the more urgent they will become. The extensive repairs these stations are receiving are essential for public safety – to characterize them as merely cosmetic and unnecessary is absolutely incorrect, and irresponsible.”
The Ditmars station will not receive similar digital amenities that other stations on the line will receive and the agency will not close the station. Instead, one staircase will be closed at a time while the work is being done.
Work along the 30th Avenue and 36th Avenue stations has affected businesses in the area that rely on foot traffic from straphangers. MTA officials said that the staging for the work on Ditmars Boulevard will occur within an underpass to avoid impacting local businesses.
“Minimal disruption? They don’t know what that means,” Constantinides said. “They don’t know how to listen. They don’t know how to work with the communities. They’re not engaged with us. It sounds again like they’re relying more on aesthetics and less on what this community really needs.”
MTA officials also added that they are working on installing four new elevators at the Astoria Boulevard station.
“I’ve been in office for well over a decade,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris. “I’ve been hearing about the Astoria Boulevard elevator ever since. It’s funny that we’ve been hearing promises about that elevator for years and years and years and yet they are doing this while they’re still promising that.”