Feb. 16, 2018 By Tara Law
Astoria’s elected officials sent two letters to the president of the MTA yesterday declaring their opposition to the MTA’s N/W subway closures and construction projects.
Councilmember Costa Constantinides, State Senator Michael Gianaris and State Assemblymember Aravella Simotas wrote to MTA President Andy Byford, calling for him to add service and accessibility upgrades as part of the upcoming Ditmars Boulevard station revamp and to provide relief to business owners impacted by the closure of the 30th and 36th avenue stations.
The officials have voiced concerns about the 30th and 36th avenue projects since the stations closed in October. The officials argue that the MTA should be investing in elevators and other ADA accessibility improvements, as well as upgrades that improve service.
Their criticism came to a head in recent weeks as local business owners have been speaking out about the impact of the subway closures—that will be closed until June–on their bottom line. The officials blame the station closures for the shuttering of businesses nearby, including Greek restaurant Opa!.
In the first of the two letters, the electeds call on the MTA to provide a shuttle service or “other relief” to help businesses located by the 30th and 36th avenue stations.
“The MTA failed to take into account the effect these shutdowns and attendant street impediments would have on the numerous businesses along these busy corridors that depend on the foot traffic from these stations,” the letter said.
“We understand that any improvement project entails inconvenience for the surrounding community,” the letter continued. “But when livelihoods are threatened, this goes beyond mere inconvenience. When a project will not improve train service or accessibility, it is especially appropriate that the MTA do everything in its power to alleviate the community’s suffering.”
In the second letter, the officials are critical of the MTA’s upcoming $22 million revamp of the Ditmars Boulevard station, which is set to begin in April and last 12 months. The station will not be closed, although construction equipment will be located in the area.
In the letter, the officials call on the MTA to install elevators and other accessibility upgrades, as well as to work on the tracks and upgrade the stations’ signals.
“Small business owners are understandably worried that they will lose business as a consequence of the construction hurting visibility of their shops and restaurants, eliminating parking spots and increasing sidewalk congestion,” the letter said. “We understand the station is old and needs repair work, but the MTA must take this opportunity to make long-term infrastructure updates to the station.”
The officials also expressed many of these concerns during a Feb. 8 rally beneath the Ditmars Boulevard station.
The letter rated a petition Constantinides launched on the City Council’s website last week that calls on the MTA to include service and accessibility at the Ditmars Boulevard station. The petition has generated about 850 signatures so far, according to the letter.
MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek emphasized the importance of fixing the “deteriorating” subway stations, which have not been thoroughly renovated since they opened in 1917.
“We deeply value our partnership with the community and elected officials and have been trying to work with them in order to reduce the impacts of construction. Those efforts continue,” he wrote in a statement. “In order to ensure the future viability of these essential subway stops that serve thousands of Astoria residents every day we must fix them; we cannot defer critical repairs and maintenance.”
Tarek added that the MTA had added additional service to the Q102 bus line, which runs along the N/W line.