Jan. 25, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Two subway stations in Long Island City are among dozens of stations the city has identified as priority for improvements and repairs, according to a newly-released list that counters the subway stations chosen by Governor Cuomo for over $900 million in enhancements.
The Queensboro Plaza and Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue stations form part of a 25-item “priority stations” list created by the city and the New York City Transit Authority. The list, distributed during yesterday’s MTA board meeting, is part of a packet that explains why these stations are important, and contrasts them to the 33 stations Cuomo selected in 2016 under his Enhanced Station Initiative (ESI).
Stations selected for the ESI, including four in Astoria, are set to close for months of work that focus on cosmetic elements and amenities such as lighting, station finishes, wayfinding, and Wi-Fi. A couple of selected stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan have already gone through the changes, and have been open to the public for several months.
But the improvements do little to maximize riding benefits, the city says, and largely ignore problems like overcrowding, accessibility gaps, and ridership growth.
“It appears these stations were chosen primarily based on ease of implementing the improvements,” part of the packet reads.
The city pointed to efforts currently underway to rezone several neighborhoods across the city, like the LIC Core, and labeled them as ideal opportunities to fix up stations within those areas. Seven City-NYCT priority stations, including Queensboro Plaza, are within city rezoning areas as opposed to just one station on the ESI list.
Station congestion, plaguing dozens of stations across the boroughs in varying degrees, appears to have accounted for very little of the state’s station selection. A map identifying low, moderate, and significant congestion stations, including some in Long Island City, for example, does not line up with the ESI stations map.
The packet, distributed by Department of Transportation commissioner and MTA board member Polly Trottenberg, came as the MTA board decided to table a vote on three ESI contracts involving eight stations in the Bronx and Manhattan. The vote was tabled to allow for Andy Byford, the new NYCT president, to review them.
“I’m glad you are all tabling it,” Trottenberg said at the meeting as she encouraged other board members to read the packet. “Theres a list attached of what we think would be, potentially, some better priority stations. Perhaps we can even have a dialogue about that.”
But MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said the stations under the ESI are part of an “initial pilot plan”, where smaller stations were purposely selected to see which methods and contractors can carry out the job best, to then be applied across the system. “We’re not ready for the busiest stations right now,” Lhota said. “It’s inconsistent with the approach that we have put together.”