Photo courtesy of Congresswoman Meng's office
A rendering of the Westbound station entrance after station upgrades, including elevator installation.

Start with the surface and the change will ripple.

That was the message Friday as Congresswoman Grace Meng and other local officials gathered to commemorate the completion of phase one of the MTA Flushing-Main Street Long Island Rail Road station renovation, unveiling fresh signs and thicker, safer railings to prevent small children from falling or squeezing through the gaps and getting injured.

Meng was joined by Assemblyman Ron Kim, Councilman Peter Koo, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, LIRR Flushing Station Project Manager Yonelle Baptitse, and Claire Shulman, president and CEO of the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation.

Soon the station will be made ADA-compliant. In the next few months, the renovation will enter phase two, including elevator installation, a new ticket window and plaza, new staircases, platform shelters, entrances and better lighting. 

The station upgrade is a $24.6 million project that has been long in the making. First announced in 2012, the MTA faced some difficulties acquiring the property needed to construct elevators for the New York-bound platform. After an eminent domain battle, in which the city obtained Ou-Jang Supermarket at 40-36 Main St., the plans finally moved ahead. 

The timeline continued to stretch out. In 2014, the MTA said it was on track to finish the renovation by 2017, a date that now seems ambitious. The cost keeps going up, too. The renovation was initially priced at $8.5 million. Since then, the cost has practically tripled. 

Still, everyone is hopeful.

“There’s no question that the population of Flushing is growing,” said Stavisky, noting that as more people move to Flushing and patronized local establishments, transportation was racing to catch up. “I remember the times when we came and we begged and finally we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Meng has been a strong advocate of this rehabilitation since its inception in 2012, during her time in the State Assembly.

“This project has had a few obstacles and bumps along the way, but we are now finally on track, no pun intended,” she said, adding that she was looking to invest further in the profitable Port Washington branch by moving forward on the Elmhurst station proposal with Congressman Joseph Crowley.

Koo, however, had a different perspective on the situation in Flushing, as he railed against the dilapidated state of the station and the lack of litter removal. He believes that compared to LIRR stations in areas such as Murray Hill and Bayside, the MTA is treating Flushing residents like “second-class citizens.”

Koo seems to have a point. The majority of signs at the station are run-down and difficult to read, the steep stairs are rickety and dirty, and the surrounding property is covered in litter and graffiti.

He called on the MTA representatives at the conference to relay his message, and urged his fellow local officials to see the renovation through, to not just “put in an elevator and leave.”

“We all know Flushing is booming. There are million-dollar condominiums around here, but our station doesn’t match the quality of life,” he exclaimed. “If Joe Biden were here, he would say the same thing. Our station is worse than LaGuardia Airport!”

Kim supported Koo’s claim, noting that the personal nature of his remarks only highlighted the urgency of this renovation, citing the impact dilapidation has on the local quality of life.

“It’s like the broken windows theory,” he said. “As you look around, there’s garbage everywhere, and a declining quality of life. Once you upgrade everything, people will psychologically take ownership of the station.”

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