‘A hard-earned victory’: MTA agrees to netting under 7 train in Queens after debris falls again

Photos: Mark Hallum/QNS

The MTA will finally deploy safety netting under the 7 line in Queens after yet another episode of falling debris from the elevated tracks on Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside on Monday.

Erin Koster says she was walking below the tracks on June 3 when two large pieces of steel came crashing down near her head, an experience that left her not only shaken but angry.

Koster said she was crossing Roosevelt Avenue with another woman near the 53rd Street entrance of the 52nd Street station when 10 to 15 feet away, the metal fell to the ground.

“It’s a busy area and people have to walk under the train all the time,” Koster told QNS. “I just remembered that there had been other incidents, so I thought, let me tell somebody about this.”

Koster, who lives just north of the train the 52nd Street Station, took to Twitter to inform elected officials and MTA.

Koster’s experience is unique in that she was not in a vehicle at the time of the incident, but falling debris is far from the public’s minds.

In late February, the windshield of a car was pierced by a wooden beam that fell on the east side of the 61st Street – Woodside Station. The driver was not injured.

On March 6, a large chunk of rusted metal fell on another vehicle, smashing the windshield and causing other body damage.

Later that month, more debris struck cars including one in Long Island City – beneath the 7 train – and another vehicle in Ozone Park along the A train.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer responded to these events with a request to New York City Transit President Andy Byford to deploy netting beneath the 7 train.

In a May 13 letter to Van Bramer, Byford explained that the agency had launched a serious effort to address the incidents of debris falling with an aggressive inspection effort.

“We have initiated a close-up inspection of our structure from the underside, using lift-trucks by a combined engineering and maintenance team,” Byford said in the letter. “During these inspections, the team identifies and clears imminent issues that could result in material falling … We are now in the midst of two additional blitz inspections to reinforce protective measures.”

Byford told Van Bramer in the letter that protective netting would impede these efforts of inspection, but that the recommendation was under review. He added that the installation would cause traffic disruptions.

A rust-covered girder on the 7 line in Woodside, photographed in March of this year.

After Monday’s incident, the agency is now taking this measure.

“This has the attention of the highest levels of MTA leadership,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said Tuesday. “We are working to quickly put into place an initial deployment of netting to understand if it can be used to contain debris while also still providing enough visibility and access to perform regular inspections. The 7 line has undergone multiple inspections of its structure in recent months, and the debris that was found today appears to have broken clean recently with no signs of slow deterioration or stress that would have been visible earlier. We’re glad that no one was hurt and look forward to seeing the results of a netting pilot which will be deployed in limited locations around the city including the 7 line.”

QNS filed a Freedom of Information request in April with the MTA seeking copies of inspection records for the period with the highest number of incidents, to which the agency projected a three-month return time.

In March, Tarek told QNS that crews walk the 7 train at least twice a week on foot, inspecting for possible hazards.

“After five consecutive incidents this year of debris crashing down from the 7 train and nearly hitting pedestrians and drivers, I am thankful that the MTA has finally agreed to start installing protective netting under parts of the elevated 7 train in Woodside,” Van Bramer said. “This is a hard-earned victory after months of advocacy, but it is also just the start. We need netting under the entire elevated 7 train structure to guarantee the safety of all Queens residents until this dangerous situation is under control. And let’s not forget that there have been similar incidents under other subway lines in Queens and the Bronx. We must keep the pressure on the MTA to ensure that all of our city’s elevated subway structures are safe and secure.”

Street vendors and residents told QNS that their concerns with the trestle at 61st Street – Woodside Station not only encompass falling beams and metal, but with lead.

Byford, in the summer of 2018, announced a two-year, $45 million effort would see the majority of the 7 line stripped to bare metal and repainted. The lead remediation effort would start at 82nd Street and work its way to Mets-Willets Point before the western portion, which has seen the majority of reported incidents of debris.

More from Around New York