The proposed elevator slated to be built inside the 86th Street R train station in Bay Ridge — and a lane-stealing sidewalk bump-out that will come with it — are continuing to raise concerns with neighborhood residents.
Citing safety and traffic concerns, Community Board 10 voted at its March 20 full board meeting, held at the Norwegian Christian Home (1250 67th Street), to mail an already penned resolution requesting that someone — be it a local politician or a representative for either the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) – intervene to address the potential danger they say comes hand in hand with the elevator’s construction, which is expected to begin later this year and be completed in 2018.
“We are one of 10 key stations chosen to become [Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)] accessible and that, in fact, is a victory for our community,” Jayne Capetanakis, chair of the board’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, told the crowd as they looked closely at unofficial mock-ups of what the coming elevator is expected to look like, and what it could potentially do to corner traffic, provided to the board by a local city planner.
However, that victory, she said, is not without its history – and its pitfalls.
“In 2004, when this issue was first brought up, to bring an elevator to the R train line, it had been recommended [by the MTA] for the 95th Street station and our community board wanted to bring it to 86th Street because that is an intermodal hub where it would be more beneficial to the community,” she explained. “However, in the last 13 years, there have been a number of changes in the buses which converge on the corners of 86th Street and Fourth Avenue, specifically the S79 and B1 which turn right at Fourth Avenue and the S53 and S93, both of which turn left from 86th Street onto Fourth Avenue.”
Furthermore, Capetanakis reiterated, the project will be taking out a lane of traffic along Fourth Avenue, which she stressed is “already an intersection of concern regarding pedestrian crossing and high crash rate.”
According to a committee report first presented to the board in January, the plan – which will consist of an elevator on the southeast side of the station by Plaka Restaurant – will significantly change the footprint of the station, both above and below ground.
“This project will begin by building a permanent second stairwell from the street on the west side of Fourth Avenue (down from Mocha Mocha),” Capetanakis told the board in January. “There will still be bus stops along that side of the street. However, there will now be two stairwells down to the train station on that side of the street.”
This part of the project, she said, will take six to eight months, during which time the buses that stop there will be relocated one block ahead. “Then, they will use the existing stairwell on the south east corner to begin building the elevator,” Capetanakis said.
Furthermore, on the southeast side of the street, to make room for the elevator, the MTA will be utilizing what is currently a traffic lane. “This is because there are sewers in the sidewalks and they need to make this wider than the existing sidewalk,” she said, stressing that, while this street work is underway, buses would stop at 87th and 88th Street. “This is [phase two] of the project and will take another six to eight months.”
The final part of the approximately 26-month project, Capetanakis said, is the creation of a short ramp in the station’s mezzanine that will allow access to the elevator — the reason for the recent eviction of the station’s longstanding vendor.
The MTA’s response at an inter-agency meeting held in late February, Capetanakis said, was that there is “no other feasible location deep enough for the elevator” – despite 95th Street being its original recommendation years ago. When a board member asked why the stop’s 85th Street entrance wasn’t being considered, Capetanakis explained that – though just a block away – that entrance is also not the proper depth, and any entrance that has an elevator must be manned by an MTA employee, which would cost the MTA more money.
“They said that they had done all of their engineering studies and that this is where it was going,” said CB10 Chair Doris Cruz.
“It wasn’t a dialogue,” added Capetanakis.
All this, coupled with the agency’s refusal to study safety further, board member Brian Kieran noted, feels like a giant slight from the MTA.
“I think it’s an insult to the community and an insult to our intelligence. That’s the only place it can go? The one place where it causes the most danger and the most inconvenience?” he said, requesting that the agency provide the board with its own engineer to back its claims. “It’s a good way of saying, ‘You want the elevator? Here, you can have it but you can’t have it.’”
“It seems that the buses are run by one department and the subway, by another,” noted another board member. “Isn’t there somebody who gathers all of this data?”
Cruz responded that, at the February meeting, “The bus people were there and the subway people were there and they all said, ‘We have made an analysis and the buses can make the turn.’”
Still, board members agreed, more needs to be done to assure local residents of the plan’s feasibility and safety.
“While the members of CB 10 support the placement of an elevator at 86th Street, it demands that either the location of the elevator or rerouting of the buses be made to mitigate the very serious pedestrian and motorist safety concerns created by the sidewalk bump-out needed for that elevator,” reads the resolution, which has since been sent to the appropriate parties in hopes of making this victory feel like a real win for the neighborhood.
“They have a lot of options,” contended Kieran. “They’re just not giving them to us.”
“They’re not giving them to us and they’re not including us in their conversation,” agreed Capetanakis. “Things have changed in 14 years’ time and they didn’t take that into consideration.”
When reached for comment, an MTA spokesperson told this paper that the agency is “reviewing the letter and will respond to the community board directly.”