Bay Ridge Avenue station reopens to celebration and protest

The newly remodeled Bay Ridge Avenue subway station – shuttered since April 29 – reopened to both fanfare and criticism on Friday, October 13, despite doing so slightly ahead of schedule.

Inside the station, MTA officials, local politicians and community stakeholders helped cut the ribbon on the revamped station, which comes with enhanced lighting, improved signage and new artwork (its artist, Katy Fischer, on hand for the reopening), among other amenities. Meanwhile, above ground, disgruntled straphangers were protesting the MTA’s decision to overhaul the station and still not make it handicap accessible.

“Tiles are nice, but elevators are better” read one sign held by a disabled straphanger. “Ok, now go back and put in an elevator,” read another.

However, MTA Chair Joe Lhota contended after cutting the ribbon on refurbished station that, if he could’ve, he would’ve.

“We couldn’t do it for this site because of the logistics of how the entrance way is and how it’s located on the street,” he told reporters. “If we were able to do it, we would do it.”

However, Lhota stressed, thanks to additional funding in the agency’s capital plan, eventually the Bay Ridge Avenue station will be the only station in the neighborhood that isn’t ADA compliant.

“We’ve already announced that we’re going to make the 77th Street stop and the 95th Street stop here in Bay Ridge ADA accessible,” he reminded reporters, “but furthermore, the amended capital plan – to which we’ve added $40 million — will now include, additionally, 86th Street and also 59th Street.

“Four of the five stations here along this line will be accessible for the disabled,” Lhota stressed.

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Arthur de Gaeta
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

Among the other additions to the 102-year-old Bay Ridge Avenue station are new state-of-the-art countdown clocks (both above and below ground), improved cell service, USB charging stations, wayfinding floor tiles for the visually-impaired, a real-time navigation system and an enhanced security system. One of the station’s entrances also features a new canopy.

Elevator or not, a bevy of local politicians were on hand to thank Lhota and the MTA for the plethora of 21st century station enhancements.

“We’re seeing improvement on a regular basis, which is important,” said State Senator Marty Golden, lauding Lhota and the MTA not just for their commitment to sprucing up the Bay Ridge Avenue station but also to the additional ADA compliancy coming his district’s way. “Our community deserves a transit system that is reliable, safe and accessible for all New Yorkers.”

Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who has long been vocal about what he refers to as the “R Train Nightmares,” agreed, citing also the R train audit he put on the table. “The Bay Ridge Avenue station has never looked better,” he said, “but we still have issues with service on the R train and that’s something that we still are working on and [calling] on the MTA to really take a hard look at the service here on the R train.

“The service is critical,” Gentile went on. “It’s nice to have these surroundings and we love it and we thank you for it, but we’re looking towards the chairman’s action plan to address some of the issues that we have with R train service. It’s like when your landlord paints your apartment for free – you like it, but you still need heat and hot water.”

Also there to applaud the inch towards better service for Bay Ridge were Congressmember Dan Donovan and Assemblymembers Pamela Harris and Felix Ortiz. Ortiz, whose district encompasses all three of the southern Brooklyn stations closed for this first round of overhauls, was especially pleased to see the upgrades.

Other stakeholders in attendance included 43rd District City Council candidates Justin Brannan and John Quaglione, Chair of Community Board 10 Doris Cruz and District Manager of Community Board 10 Josephine Beckmann, among others. Brannan joined fellow Democratic candidates for public office Ross Barkan and Adam Baumel in standing with local riders who were more concerned with the station’s lack of elevator than its new trinkets.

When the station closed earlier this year, it left just three points of access to the R train in Bay Ridge — 95th Street, 86th Street and 77th Street — as well as an 18-block gap between neighboring stops.

The station was one of three in southern Brooklyn to close this year as part of a 31-stop overhaul announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo last summer, alongside Prospect Avenue and 53rd Street – the latter fresh off its own grand reopening, which was met with both positive and negative reviews.

There is still no word as to when Prospect Avenue – the last of the trio to close – will reopen, though Lhota touted that the MTA hopes to reopen “one every month.”

The Bay Ridge Avenue station was first opened on September 13, 1915. The first contract for the forthcoming accessibility projects for the other stations will be awarded later this year.

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