If you want to understand what’s wrong with the city’s public transit system lately, all you need to do is go to Woodside.
The neighborhood gained notoriety in recent weeks after very large objects suddenly fell off the 7 line onto Roosevelt Avenue. On Feb. 21, a wooden beam — apparently a forgotten former piece of a temporary work platform left behind years ago — smashed into a passing SUV. Then on March 6, a chunk of unknown metal debris fell off the platform and hit a vehicle.
Miraculously, no one was hurt in either instance. The MTA scrambled to make reactive repairs and make sure nothing else falls off the 7 line in Woodside. Even so, it’s undoubtedly left some commuters wondering whether they need to wear a hard hat while passing through the area, just in case.
But these incidents are part of a larger pattern of neglect for the railroad infrastructure in Woodside — and the thousands of residents and commuters who pass through it each day.
Walk into the Woodside-61st Street station — which serves the 7 line and the Long Island Rail Road — and you can see, smell and hear the problems very clearly.
The main staircase leading into the station is so rickety that it quakes when a 7 train rumbles in. Benches and pipes are openly oxidized. You can smell urine in certain spots and see vagrants frequently roaming the mezzanine. That’s not to mention the usual gambit of delays due to signal troubles and other problems that have plagued the subway and commuter rails in recent years.
Sure, the MTA has, in recent years, improved a few staircases and upgraded elevators, but they haven’t gone nearly far enough in giving the Woodside-61st Street stop the overhaul it needs.
What’s the end result? Woodside-61st Street ought to be a grand gateway for one of Queens’ most diverse neighborhoods — but it’s instead symbolic of the MTA’s own incompetence when it comes to maintaining and supporting its mass transit system.
In recent years, the MTA has embarked on “station renewal” projects on scores of other lines in Queens. They’re repairing stops along the N line in Astoria and on the J line in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill. They also renovated, within a couple of years time, four stations along the M line in Bushwick, Ridgewood and Middle Village.
Why is Woodside being ignored here? Considering the importance of the station to the subway and LIRR, and its close proximity to LaGuardia Airport and connection to the Q53 Select Bus Service line, the MTA needs to make repairing the Woodside-61st Street station — and shoring up the elevated 7 line — a top priority immediately.
We urge our local elected officials to stand up for Woodside and give the community’s gateway a makeover.
Editor’s note: This editorial was originally published in The Queens Courier on March 14. The very next day, yet another metal object fell off the elevated 7 line, this time in Long Island City along Queens Boulevard near Skillman Avenue. No one was injured, according to CBS New York. However, the episode further underscores the sorry state of the 7 line in Queens — and the pressing need for the MTA and elected officials to take immediate action to find and fix the problems. We shouldn’t have to wait for someone to be seriously injured or killed by falling debris in order for corrective measures to be taken.