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Straphangers, elected officials demand action after latest R train debacle

Just when straphangers thought they were at their wit’s end with the infamous R line, the 86th Street subway station – just one of four subway access points in Bay Ridge, all of which offer strictly R line service – quite literally started to fall apart early Sunday morning.

According to an MTA spokesperson, at about 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 26, a panel of the station’s “pre-fabrication bolt-on wall coverings” fell from the wall and onto the tracks just as a train was pulling in.

In an attempt to avoid hitting the debris, the conductor of the oncoming train – which the agency claims was carrying about 30 people – brought it to a safe, albeit abrupt, stop, though was unable to avoid the paneling entirely. Instead, a portion of the panel, the spokesperson said, ended up wedged under the train car, making for a grueling clean-up the spokesperson confirmed took close to 12 hours.

Though there were no injuries (contrary to initial reports that the train had derailed, the car never dislodged from the tracks), with work being done on the station until about 4:18 p.m. that day, riders were left to utilize an alternative they know all too well – a complimentary shuttle bus service in both directions courtesy of the MTA. The Sunday shuttle service was reminiscent of those offered to riders when service is suspended, as it is often and as it will continue to be, with scheduled upgrades – including an elevator at this very station – coming down the pipeline.

With the station back in business and service up and running at what they perceive as its usual inconsistent pace, local residents and elected officials feel the incident is just another chapter in a story that will seemingly never end.

“Thankfully no one was hurt,” wrote State Senator Marty Golden on Facebook Sunday. “This [is] another example why I continue to fight for the modernization and safety of our transportation system.”

Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who has long fought for a complete overhaul and reexamination of the R line and its service, shared similar sentiments. “The crumbling wall at the 86th Street station makes me angry beyond measure, and evidence yet again which supports my argument for a full and complete audit of the R train station,” he wrote, also on Facebook. “When is enough enough?”

“I really don’t know how many more wake-up calls we need,” Councilmember-elect Justin Brannan told this paper, crediting the operator for bringing the train to a safe stop and the maintenance crews who worked overtime to make sure Monday morning wasn’t “more of a nightmare than it usually is.”

“It’s time the commuters demand their elected representatives lock themselves in a room until they figure out how we’re going to fix our crumbling public transportation system,” he went on. “I’m ready to lock myself in that room and work with anyone and everyone. This is very clearly an emergency, all-hands on deck situation and it requires everyone to come to the table ready to work towards real solutions.”

Bay Ridge straphanger Matthew Kabel agreed.

“That wall falling down was not only symbolic of the crumbling infrastructure of our outdated subway system, but the lack of strength politicians have displayed in addressing the underlying problem head-on,” said Kabel who, earlier this year, started a Facebook group where members can share updates and statuses on South Brooklyn transportation, such as the D, N, Q and (of course) the R train. “You almost have to laugh at the absurdity of it. I’m happy nobody got hurt, but what about next time?”

The page – which boasts close to 1,000 members – was abuzz with response to Sunday’s incident.

“So much for maintenance work done over past months,” commented one Facebook user.

“Are they going to take 17 days to decide what to do about this?” wrote another.

“No more playing hot potato, no more kicking the can down the road,” Brannan said. “We all know the state ultimately controls the MTA but that doesn’t mean we as city lawmakers can just simply shrug our shoulders – not when our subways are literally falling apart.”

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