Construction is finally slated to begin June 1 on an elevator more than a decade in the making at Bay Ridge’s busy 86th Street subway station.
Its logistics were discussed on Tuesday, April 24 at a public hearing with Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials on the project, which Community Board 10 Traffic and Transportation Committee Chair Jayne Capetenakis has said, “is, in fact, a victory” for the neighborhood. Nonetheless, it’s one to look at closely as it will significantly change the footprint of the station, both above and below ground.
The project – consisting of two elevators, one connecting the street and the mezzanine on one side of the turnstiles, and another connecting the mezzanine to the train platform on the other – will be done in phases, with a controversial bump-out coming to the southeast corner of 86th Street and Fourth Avenue (where the elevator will sit) to create a barrier between moving traffic and riders.
On the other side of the street, a new staircase will be built. Once it opens, the existing staircase at the foot of Mocha Mocha will be made over, the better to accommodate rider traffic on the commercial corridor. This is the first phase of the project, during which buses that stop there will be located one block ahead. It will take approximately six months.
Next, Melissa Farley, assistant director of Government and Community Relations at the MTA said, workers will reconfigure the sidewalk across the street and implement a curb extension and another new staircase. Finally, way underground, two new staircases to the train’s platform will be built (they need to be relocated, Farley said, to accommodate the upgrade better), with the coming elevator to be installed in between them.
As a whole, the project will take about two years and end with a total of five entry points, including the elevator.
Permanent reroutes, Farley said, are possible, though are ultimately up to the Department of Transportation. In its current renderings, the elevator overlaps at least partly with S79 bus lineup and pickup. If there is no change to lane configuration (a decision she said has yet to be made on the matter), buses that queue there will just do so behind the elevator. Any changes made to the lane, however, could change that.
Furthermore, Capetanakis reiterated, the project will take out a lane of traffic along Fourth Avenue, which she and other members of the board have continuously stressed is “already an intersection of concern regarding pedestrian crossing and high crash rate.”
Traffic and Transportation Committee member Nick Nikolopoulos suggested extending the bollards currently present in the MTA’s rendering to protect the entirety of the coming bump-out better, rather than just the elevator itself. Officials said that they would look into the board’s suggestions, though doubling up on bollards could potentially impede the station’s overall ADA-compliance.
“You know, [if] you come out of that elevator, you can make a left turn and just walk right out into the street,” he said, calling for at least some sort of signage. “It’s just concerning.”
Member Diane Gounardes agreed. “It’s an accident waiting to happen,” she said, noting also the potential for cars to turn unknowingly right through the new crosswalk.
Still, officials maintained, pedestrian safety is a top priority (it did pass a feasibility study, Farley said, noting also that the 85th Street entrance did not). “We want to keep our customers safe, the pedestrians safe, everybody safe,” she said. “So that’s how we came up with this design and this location.”
Also important to the board, it noted, is notice, a few members citing past issues with the MTA regarding short-notice station shutdowns and surprise construction. Farley responded, as soon as the MTA knows, the board will know.
In addition, Farley said, the station will remain open during the entirety of construction (which excludes holidays and, to the board’s relief, the busy winter shopping season), give or take the occasional weekend shutdown, during which the agency will provide complimentary shuttle buses to 59th Street and 36th Street, as is usually the case.
The project – slated to last into the summer of 2020 – technically dates back to 2004 when the neighborhood’s 95th Street station was chosen as one of 100 key stations to become Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible. However, 13 years later, the MTA decided, instead, to transform the hub one stop over.
Nonetheless, according to State Senator Marty Golden, an elevator at 95th Street as well as another at the multi-line 59th Street station are also coming down the pipeline.
The two new elevators, the pol said, are a part of a capital amendment which also includes funding of more than $300 million for signal and track work critical to enhancing service reliability as part of the Subway Action Plan, first approved by the MTA Board in December 2017.
“In our community, with the many young families with strollers and carriages, and with the many seniors and disabled residents, there is a great need and urgency to make our stations ADA compliant,” Golden said. “Through this latest round of negotiations and approvals, we will make traveling by train easier for some, and accessible for those who have been shut out in the past.”
The funding, he explained, will be used for signal repair and modernization work, and the installation of a continuous welded rail which is more reliable, and less prone to causing delays, than the traditional rail.