BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — There are three possible scenarios for fixing the ancient elevators at the Clark Street subway station, according to the MTA. New York City Transit Authority President Andy Byford laid out the possibilities on Monday night at a town hall meeting.
After an outcry from Heights residents about the lack of communication from NYCT about the upcoming station closure, the meeting was arranged by officials including Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, Councilmember Stephen Levin, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Borough President Eric Adams.
The subway station that serves the 2 and 3 lines is one of the deepest underground in the city’s subway system, and the elevators are so old and have broken down so many times they ought to be in the Transit Museum, Byford told the crowd.
The first option, favored by Byford, would shut the station down for eight months and bypass trains during that period. This would be the least expensive option with the shortest duration, he said.
While the slide he presented said there would be no shuttle service provided during this work because of the proximity of other stations, shuttle buses proved to be a hot topic — and in the end, Byford said they would be considered.
Option two is to work on one elevator at a time over the course of 24 months, which would allow the station to remain open. Because of safety rules, two elevators need to be in operation at the same time.
Besides a longer timeline, other negatives come with this option, Byford said. One is that a partition would need to be constructed between the two elevators that — oddly enough — share one shaft, adding an additional four months to construction time. Another concern is that if one of the operating elevators goes out of service, the entire station would need to be shut down. Customer flow and worker safety considerations also factors, Byford said.
The third option is to work on one elevator at a time over a 22-month period, but only run the two operating elevators during peak times on weekdays. The station would remain open, but the the same drawbacks as Option Two would still apply.
Options Two and Three would each cost $6 million more than Option One. Byford could not reveal the first option’s base price because the job is still being assigned. If he revealed the city’s estimate, all the bidders would use it to price their bids, he said.
Businesses affected by the closure
Assemblymember Simon voiced particular concern over the fate of the businesses operating within the arcade at the St. George, where the subway is located. Several shop owners there told the Brooklyn Eagle in April that a prolonged closure would force them out of business.
Andy Inglesby, NYCT assistant director for government and community relations, said Monday that his department would be in direct communication with shop owners to best assess their needs and concerns.
When some members of the the crowd sounded dubious, Byford said that the St. George arcade would remain open during the work, and prominent signage would point out to passersby that the businesses inside were still open.
The current schedule is to advertise the work in the fourth quarter of 2019, award the contract in the second quarter of 2020 and begin work in the fourth quarter of 2020, with leeway for weather and other considerations.
No matter the option, the contractor would be incentivized financially to complete work ahead of schedule, and penalized for work finished after the deadline.
“We’ll be mindful of the fact it does get pretty cold here,” Byford said after being asked to keep the station open during the summer. Exact timing also depends on contractor availability, he added. He also was asked to consider a conflicting request to keep doing the work over the summer, when students residing in the St. George dormitories are gone.
Because of the depth of the station and its narrow island platform, the station can’t be made fully accessible, Byford said. However, he did say that NYCT would consider a request to transform one of the stairways from the elevator level to the platform into an escalator.
Choosing Option One would allow MTA to look at doing more at the platform level, Byford said, because that would allow workers full access to the platform.
The 10-story emergency stairway will be utilized during construction, and would not be available to customers, Byford said.
The escalators at the nearby High Street station are also due for replacement at the end of the year, MTA engineer Vinod Patel said. Byford said extra attention would be paid to coordinating these efforts.
Patel also said that the contractor would require about 100 feet by 10 feet of staging area on Henry Street, equivalent to about five parking spaces.
Not a done deal
While his own preference is to “get in, get it done and get out,” it’s not a done deal, Byford said. Local officials and organizations will be organizing a survey, both on paper and online, where riders will have the opportunity to say which option they prefer.
“My philosophy is to be customer-led in everything. Listen, no decision has been taken. I wouldn’t waste your time with some sort of lip service,” Byford said.
Regarding repeated requests for shuttle buses from attendees, Byford said, “Anything is possible.” However, “It’s not my money, it’s public money, and we have to look at what’s practical.” Due to the narrowness of the streets and the cost, “Maybe a smaller vehicle, not a 40-foot bus.”
“Those elevators have to be replaced and we need to look at what are the best options, the least disruptive, and the least painful,” Velázquez said.
Levin said that the determination would be collective, with the least negative side effects.
“We appreciate President Byford’s presentation this evening, which helped to clarify some of the constraints and the logic behind the various options for replacing the elevators at Clark Street Station,” Lara Birnback, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association told the Eagle following the meeting.
“Hopefully, the community will take advantage of the opportunity to weigh in directly by completing the survey the MTA [will release].”
She added, “The BHA remains concerned about the impact any of the options, but especially the complete closure option, would have on the small businesses in and around the station, and would like to understand more about what can be done to minimize or mitigate any negative effects.”