Updated April 18, 1:15 p.m.
Astoria residents and elected officials have grown frustrated with the amount of train station closures in their neighborhood due to MTA construction. But after decades of calling for elevators at the Astoria Boulevard station, the agency may be closer to fulfilling Astoria’s wishes.
The MTA presented their plan to install four elevators at the Astoria Boulevard N/W station at a Community Board 1 Transportation Committee meeting on April 11, according to District Manager Florence Koulouris.
Currently, the agency is making repairs to two station — 30th Avenue and 36th Avenue — which has left the stations closed and local businesses struggling because of a decrease in foot traffic. In July, the MTA will begin similar work on the Broadway and 39th Avenue stations.
In February, elected officials and Astoria residents rallied in front of the Ditmars Boulevard train station, which will undergo a 14-month, $22 million renovation starting this month. They argued that most of the repairs made at these stations were cosmetic and called on the MTA to install necessary upgrades like elevators.
“I’ve been in office for well over a decade,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris at the rally. “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.”
According to Koulouris, the MTA has been speaking about adding elevators to the Astoria Boulevard station since the late 1970s. She added that the dates provided by the MTA are not “set in stone.”
The MTA announced that it will not start work on the elevators until the four projects at the 30th Avenue, 36th Avenue, 39th Avenue and Broadway stations are complete. While two of the projects are wrapping up, the 39th Avenue and Broadway station upgrades will be finished in January 2019.
On April 17, the MTA announced that it would construct two street-to-mezzanine elevators and two mezzanine-to-platform elevators. The installation of the street elevators will require that the agency demolish and reconstruct the entire station mezzanine, which will also be raised to reduce strikes by trucks driving underneath.
According to Koulouris, the MTA said that the project will go out to bid on or around March 15, 2019, and will be awarded at or around June 29, 2019. The construction will take approximately 29 months and the station will be partially closed for the majority of this time but will be fully closed for nine months starting in February 2019, the MTA announced.
“I’ve made accessibility one of my top priorities since the moment I arrived at New York City Transit and am thrilled that we’re bringing elevators to this critical intermodal hub that connects to LaGuardia Airport,” MTA President Andy Byford said. “We are continuing to spend billions of dollars on accessibility throughout the entire subway system. The systemwide study that’s underway now, combined with future funding in the MTA capital plan, will provide the path forward to even more accessibility improvements.”
The project will be “substantially” completed by December 2020 but adding elevators will be only part of a larger project. The MTA will also raise the platform, close the gap between the platform, widen the mezzanine and replace the stairs, roof, lampposts, signs and gates.
The MTA also announced at the meeting that they will work with the Department of Transportation on traffic modifications during the construction since the station is near the Grand Central Parkway and Triborough Bridge, Koulouris said.
Councilman Costa Constantinides, who attended the February rally, called the announcement “bittersweet” and said the accessibility updates “are a long time coming.”
“Our community has spent years advocating for elevators at the station to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, parents with strollers, and seniors,” he said. “However, our community’s experience with the MTA’s 30th Avenue Station closure has left us with many burdens, concerns and unanswered questions. While closing the station will bring some negative effects to our neighborhood during construction including longer commute times and more crowded stations, the added accessibility features will bring essential long-term infrastructure improvements to the station. I will continue to hold the authority accountable on this and other similar projects.”
According to TransitCenter, a foundation that advocates for urban mobility, only 23 percent of the subway’s 472 stations are accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. On average, there are 25 elevator outages throughout the system per day.
By TransitCenter’s estimates, it will take 70 years for the MTA to become fully ADA accessible if it continues its construction pace. The 2015-19 Capital Program includes $427 million to replace 42 elevators and 32 escalators and funding to make an additional 19 stations accessible.