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Tale of two stairways

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An outdoor staircase in Bay Ridge that gained viral-video fame on social media when last week’s rains turned it into a waterfall is really just the ugly stepsister of a similar staircase a couple of streets over, according to residents.

Beyond the poor drainage, the crumbling staircase abutting a dead end at 76th Street near Colonial Road is covered with rust and graffiti, and overgrown with plants, making an awkward contrast with the well-kempt stairway on 74th Street, both of which are the responsibility of the Department of Transportation.

“The Department of Transportation seems to have no interest in compromising or doing any work on the area. The work they do is shoddy,” said resident Bert Halliday, “and this is an aggressive and callous disregard for the community. It’s offensive.”

Halliday and a group of families dealing with cancer have been doing their best to maintain the stairs on their own, in part as a make-shift memorial for Halliday’s son Ryan — who died of leukemia in 2014 — and other locals lost to cancer.

“Ryan used to talk about how he wanted to buy a house on that block because he loved the view from the stairs. Him and the dog used to take walks down there and watch the sun set. So it became a place we identify with Ryan and wanted to take care of on his behalf,” said Halliday. “But it’s not safe and we just want it to be a priority for the city to fix.”

Halliday said all the city has done is patch a few problem spots — and often carelessly dumping excess cement over the hand rail onto the embankment — and that work is undone every year when the stairs are kept salted all winter.

Even the sewer drain at the foot of the stairway is chronically clogged with trash, so even rains not strong enough to turn it into a waterfall can create a lake at the bottom.

Getting the 76th Street staircase fixed is one of the top-five priorities for Community Board 10, according to district manager Josephine Beckmann, but the city doesn’t feel the same way.

“For the fiscal 2017–2018 year, we submitted a list of 31 capital priorities to be considered for the new budget,” said Beckmann, “this is number five on the list. The DOT responded saying it’s not a capital priority.”

The city put the cost of rebuilding the staircase at $9 million, but Halliday warned that could rise to as much as $20 million if the work is put off for another five years.

Local pols have been working together to mobilize funding for the job.

“Making necessary repairs to this staircase has been an issue that was around even before I took office,” said Assemblymember Pamela Harris (D–Bay Ridge), “and I’ve continued working to ensure the repairs can be made. I was able to secure $500,000 for this project.”

Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) has also earmarked funding for repairs, and prodded the city to take action.

“We’ve got a lot of seniors in the district, we want to make sure that they can get around. Basically, it’s a safety issue,” said Gentile’s communications director Matthew Kazlowski.

Beckmann said she has heard complaints of people falling on the staircase, in addition to the steps being practically invisible in the dark. Locals also complain about the overgrown vegetation and never-draining puddles, she said.

CB10 will be making another capital request to better light the staircase and urged the community to continue calling for refurbishment. Until now, the only way residents could register their complaints was by calling 311, but locals recently created an online petition demanding repairs at: https://www.change.org/p/brooklyn-borough-president-eric-adams-the-repair-and-renovation-of-the-76th-street-dead-end-stairs.

The Department of Transportation said that the 76th Street stairway was extensively repaired in 2014, and further repairs made as recently as March of this year.

Updated 12:40 pm, August 11, 2017
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Reader feedback

MJ from Bay Ridge says:
it is cheaper to replace to stair with an "inclinator lift" than to repair the stair at $9-20 million
Aug. 11, 2017, 7:45 am

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