Nov. 7, 2017 By Tara Law
Dozens of parents—accompanied by young children–gathered near the Astoria Boulevard subway station Saturday to call on the MTA to install elevators at neighborhood stations.
The protesters, who numbered between 50 and 75 people, gathered at Columbus Triangle near the Astoria Boulevard Station and criticized the MTA for not making accessibility more of a priority. Representatives of groups such as MOMally, an Astoria-based mothers’ group, turned out to make clear that pregnant women and small children need them.
The protesters expressed solidarity with disability advocates, who recently expressed their outrage at the MTA’s decision to not include elevators in its $150 million revamp of four Astoria subway stations on the N/W line. Currently none of the N/W stations in Astoria have elevators.
The MTA has promised that it would install elevators at the Astoria Boulevard subway station by 2020, but the protestors argued that the date is not soon enough given there are none in the area.
State Senator Mike Gianaris, Council Member Costa Constantinides and Assembly Member Aravella Simotas attended the protest to lend their support.
Megan Stotts, an Astoria resident and founder of Hearts Across Queens, said she helped organize the rally because many of her members are young mothers who are struggling to get around the City due to inaccessible stations.
Stotts is currently suffering from pregnancy-related sciatica, and said that it can be painful for her to climb the stairs to get on the train. Once she gives birth, she anticipates that it will be difficult for her take her baby outside the neighborhood via the train—-limiting her ability to make medical appointments outside Astoria.
She said that she was also angry to learn that the MTA is removing benches from the Astoria stations as part of its revamp and replacing them with “standing benches,” which commuters can lean on but not sit down on. She said pregnant woman and young mothers need a place to rest.
Christine Serdjenian Yearwood, the mother of a 3-year old and founder of UP-STAND, said that she participated in the rally because she has had trouble accessing the subway before and after her pregnancy.
Yearwood said that the subway can present a major obstacle to new parents and pregnant women who often are coping with ongoing medical problems.
The MTA released a statement reiterating its promise that it would be adding elevators at the Astoria Boulevard station and noted that the MTA’s buses are accessible.
“Increasing accessibility is a priority for the MTA and the MTA is moving aggressively to add elevators to stations where possible,” wrote an MTA spokesman. “In Astoria, New York City Transit is on-schedule to have elevators in the Astoria Boulevard station in 2020, and New York City Transit’s fully accessible bus fleet provides strong service across the neighborhood – including connections to accessible subway stations nearby.”
For some of the activists, however, this response was not good enough.
Yearwood criticized the MTA for neglecting such a wide swath of the community. She said that the MTA was essentially telling the disabled and parents to take the bus, which is not good enough.
“Public transit is not really serving the public if you’re not serving everyone,” Yearwood said.