Feb. 6, 2018 By Tara Law
The Ditmars Boulevard subway station is about to undergo a 14-month revamp starting this April, the MTA notified Astoria’s elected officials Monday.
The station, used by N/W riders, will not be fully closed, although construction materials and equipment will be stored on 31st Street throughout the length of the project.
The news comes at a time when many residents and elected officials are already upset with the MTA stemming from the eight-month closure of the 30th Avenue and 36th Avenue subway stations that began in October.
Local residents, businesses and politicians have complained that these renovations are largely cosmetic and are not worthy of the lengthy closures. They claim that the MTA should have invested the time and funds in service improvements and added elevators to make the stations handicap accessible.
Furthermore, the MTA plans to close the 39th Avenue and Broadway N/W stations for seven months for similar repairs, starting in July.
The MTA’s planned revamp of the Ditmars Blvd station—at a cost of $22 million– will be similar to the four other N/W stations. It will involve repairing the station building, adding new benches and installing public art, among other items, according to elected officials. However, the MTA will not be making track improvements, nor will it be updating the subway signals or adding elevators.
Council Member Costa Constantinides, State Senator Mike Gianaris, and Assembly Member Aravella Simotas issued a joint statement today calling the Ditmars Blvd revamp a “slap in the face of Astorians.” The elected officials claim the revamp will be disruptive and not worthy of the inconvenience, given that the plan fails to include elevators or make service improvements.
“All this construction is a recipe for disaster, inconveniencing riders, hurting small businesses and blocking busy streets,” Simotas said. “The MTA seems oblivious to this pain and the things that subway riders really need– working trains that run on time and elevators to help the elderly, the disabled and parents with children— the MTA is ignoring.”
The three elected officials plan to hold a rally Thursday outside the station at 4:30 p.m. to call for service and accessibility improvements.
Constantinides has also launched a petition calling for better service and accessibility on the N/W line.
Constantinides said in an interview that he was frustrated that the electeds had only learned of the project Monday, although the planning had begun months earlier.
“This particular project was dropped out of the sky,” he said. “If they were really serious about taking suggestions, they would have engaged with us earlier.”
Gianaris said that he is concerned that the renovations at the Ditmars Boulevard station will cause the same problems as at the 30th and 36th avenue stations. The closures have hurt local business, he said. Two storefronts by the 30th Avenue station— a dollar store and Opa! Souvlaki of Astoria— have already closed.
He said that the project is indicative of the MTA’s “poor decision making.”
“I understand that the subway system is old, but let’s do work that makes the subway run on time and makes it easier for people with disabilities to get on and off,” he said.
The MTA did not respond by press time to provide additional details of the plan.