Locals: New station great, but where are the elevators?

Back again: The Sunset Park 53rd Street subway station reopened on Monday after six months of renovations, but was noticeably missing an elevator for the riders who need it.
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The Metropolitan Transit Authority needs to stop pumping money into flashy rider perks like phone chargers and new digital displays and start making Southern Brooklyn platforms accessible to the elderly and disabled, residents checking out one newly refurbished station said this week.

“I just think it’s a little ridiculous to put all of the resources into revamping these stations without the basic consideration of making them handicap accessible, with elevators,” said Mitchell Brodsky, a Bay Ridge resident.

The 53rd Street Sunset Park station re-opened on Monday after a renovation that began in March. The station is the first of three on the R line — including Prospect Ave. and Bay Ridge Ave. — that closed for a $72-million renovation between March and June. The station was also the first to receive extensive upgrades and renovations, including new mosaic tiles, better lighting, and Wi-Fi as part of the agency’s plan to modernize 33 stations throughout the city.

Riders said that they appreciate the updates, but elevators were still the most important improvement on their radar.

One new Bay Ridge mother said that the difficulties posed by carrying her stroller up and down the steep subway stairs have made her more inclined to drive her car than take public transportation.

“I think it will definitely encourage us to use the car rather than the subway, which is unfortunate,” said Rebecca Goldberg, Brodsky’s wife. “We were hopeful that it would at least have an elevator.”

Her husband agreed, even though he said he liked the updated stations.

“I think it’s a good thing that the aesthetics are being updated so we can at least feel good about going into the subway, and it’s nice to feel good about your surroundings when you’re commuting,” said Brodsky. “But when we think about going places outside of Bay Ridge, even with the parking hassles, is still easier than thinking about going into the subway.”

But Goldberg said that accessibility was more important to her than flashy features, because carrying the stroller up and down the subway stairs adds a fair amount of stress to her daily commute.

“It’s scary, frankly,” she said of the challenge. “It’s heavy, and I fear the day I have to do it by myself.”

The renovations will not change the fact that there aren’t any wheelchair-accessible stations that service the R line south of the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station. The only other wheelchair accessible Southern Brooklyn stations in the area are at Bay Parkway, which services the D line, and Coney Island-Stillwell Ave., which services the D, F, N, and Q lines.

The Department of Transporta­tion’s Code of Federal Regulations state that new stations built after 1992 must include access for people in wheelchairs, and that station renovations done after the same year should ideally include elevators.

The transit agency wrote on its website that it chooses the stations that receive elevators and other accessibility updates based on its own analysis of which updates would benefit the highest number of riders. An agency spokesperson said that the city’s subway system has 248 elevators and 224 escalators spread throughout its 472 stations, and that 117 stations are accessible. But he pointed out that the agency is spending more than $1 billion for upkeep on those stations and plans to make 19 more stations accessible in its current capital plan. And the 59th Street and 86th Street R-train stations are slated to receive elevators by 2020 and 2019, respectively, as part of a separate funding and construction effort. But when officials announced those plans, local officials and residents charged that elevators at those stations would reduce already limited parking in the area and make traffic more dangerous.

A local group that seeks to improve the quality of life for disabled Brooklyn residents is one of a few organizations that hit the transit agency with both a federal and state lawsuit earlier this year for failing to maintain elevators and failing to adequately increase the city’s number of accessible stations. The executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled said that the group and others like it have been disappointed with the city’s limited station accessibility for people in wheelchairs, which becomes even more visible following station renovations.

“There have been plenty of renovations but those renovations have not necessarily always included wheelchair accessibil­ity,” said Joe Rappaport.

A Sunset Park resident said that the neighborhood’s population indicates that elevators would be huge assets to residents, and that the renovations are a waste of time and money without them.

“Around these areas there’s a lot of people, especially those who are much older, who need the federal assistance,” said Adriana Torres. “No elevators make the whole renovation useless.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 6:21 pm, September 19, 2017
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Reader feedback

Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from Bed-Stuy says:
I was thinking the same thing. I guess that a class-action lawsuit against the MTA will be happening in the not too distant future, which involves making the entire subway system ADA accessible.
Sept. 18, 2017, 8:35 am
S from No says:
Handicapped is an incredibly outdated term. Please replace with "disabled" and next time, use a style guide.
Sept. 18, 2017, 11:55 am
Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
A) An elevator is planned for the 59th street station -- an express stop for both the R and N trains. I saw the engineers there a couple of years ago deciding where to put it and have seen a few references to it in the press. There are also plans for an elevator at 86th street, as has been reported by this paper. B) The station looks nice but I wonder if any thought was given to restoring it to the original white tile with mosaic border that was needlessly covered over in the 1960s. C) Can someone explain why sprucing up 3 stations cost 72 million dollars?
Sept. 19, 2017, 9:38 am
Would rather walk from Pedestrianville says:
How about running more buses during rush hour? The B68, B36 and B1 don't run often enough and are not on time.
Sept. 19, 2017, 5:41 pm
Mallory from Bay Ridge says:
I don't understand how ANY station can be upgraded w/o including elevators. The ADA requires accessibility for those who have disabilities, and the subways must adhere to that.

When I taught in a public school, taking class trips became incredibly difficult because I taught students who used walkers and wheelchairs, as well as those who had leg braces. The station our school was closest to--Prospect Avenue--did not have an elevator, and it sounds like it still won't. This meant my class had to request lift busses for students to go on field trips, but organizing school busses puts limitations on trips (can only leave/return within a certain time window, must request well in advance and subject to availability) that meant my students couldn't participate.

This is also the case for anyone with mobility limitations who depends on the subway. An elevator at 59th isn't helpful to someone who can't GET to 59th from where they live due to mobility limitations. Every station needs to be accessible.
Sept. 20, 2017, 11:38 am
Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
Yes Mallory, ideally all stations should have elevators but since they were not put in when the subway was built in 1900 or so the more important and busier stations must be outfitted first.
Sept. 20, 2017, 4:36 pm

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