Aug. 5, 2019 By Shane O’Brien
Council Member Costa Constantinides is calling on the MTA to place safety netting underneath the elevated N/W tracks in Astoria after a resident was nearly struck by a piece of MTA equipment that fell from the track last week.
Constantinides, who held a press conference near the Ditmars Boulevard station this morning, said a female pedestrian was almost struck by an MTA flashlight that had fallen from the N/W tracks on Thursday.
The near-miss took place as the woman approached the 31st Street and 23rd Avenue intersection at around 8 a.m., Constantinides said. The MTA is currently doing trackwork at the location.
Constantinides held the flashlight aloft during the press conference and said that the woman narrowly avoided a serious injury or worse. He said that the flashlight fell during a routine inspection of the tracks.
Constantinides noted that there have also been unconfirmed reports of debris falling at Astoria Boulevard Station, where there is ongoing construction.
The MTA recently announced that it would be placing safety nets underneath the N/W tracks between Queensboro Plaza and the 39th Avenue station in Long Island City on a trial basis. Constantinides called on the agency to include the remaining two miles of track up to Ditmars Boulevard.
The MTA is also adding safety nets underneath sections of the elevated 7 train on a trial basis after several incidents of falling debris in Woodside.
Constantinides said that he has already been in discussions with the MTA over Thursday’s incident. He said that the MTA described the incident as rare, and has yet to put a plan in place.
He stressed that the press conference was not about criticizing the MTA, but about acknowledging the danger of falling equipment and debris–and eradicating that danger.
“The MTA called this a rare occurrence; what if another rare occurrence happened and someone was seriously injured,” Constantinides said. “How do we look those families in the face and say, because it was too expensive, we let their family member get injured? That is a scenario that is unconscionable to me.”
Constantinides said that one incident was one too many and that he hoped that the MTA would be swift in its installation of netting beneath the tracks.
“They should be looking at this with the same seriousness that I am. We need to ensure safety and ensure peace of mind,” Constantinides said.
The MTA said that it too wants to ensure public safety and is in the process of determining the effectiveness of safety netting through a series of trials at various Queens locations. It did not say whether the nets would come to the Astoria portion of the N/W track if the trial proves successful.
“We’re undertaking a short netting trial in several areas in order to design an effective solution that protects the street below while still allowing visual and physical access for regular inspections,” the MTA said in a statement.
The MTA said it is reinforcing worker safety standards.
“Workers follow strict safety protocols and anyone responsible for failing to secure equipment will be held accountable,” the MTA added.