March 2, 2021 By Allie Griffin
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has completed accessibility upgrades at the Manhattan-bound side of the Court Square- 23rd Street subway station, the agency announced Tuesday.
The entrance to the E/M line platform — on the Manhattan-bound side — has been outfitted with a new elevator, ramp, wheelchair access gate, turnstiles and a widened staircase. The MTA plans to make the Queens-bound side of the E/M platform ADA-accessible in the future — as part of its 2020-2024 Capital Plan.
The newly completed accessible entrance was built by the developers of the adjacent Skyline Tower, a new residential skyscraper at 23-15 44th Dr., as part of a MTA external partner program.
“This is a great example of how the MTA is harnessing the private sector to assist in the rollout of full systemwide accessibility,” said Quemuel Arroyo, MTA Chief Accessibility Officer. “I like this a lot. I want to see more projects like this.”
The developers — United Construction & Development Group, FSA Capital and Risland US Holdings LLC — financed and built the accessibility upgrades at the station, with oversight and guidance from the MTA.
“Skyline Tower’s ownership group is excited to see the expansion of the Court Sq-23 St subway station open to Long Island City locals and visitors alike,” said Louis Yu, Project General Manager at Risland US Holdings LLC.
“The Court Square neighborhood will greatly benefit from the newly-accessible subway station, and future Skyline Tower residents will enjoy even easier access to and from Manhattan,” Yu added.
The Court Square complex is comprised of three stations — one that services the E/M line; another for the 7 train; as well as one for the G train.
In 2011, the station complex was expanded with a transfer area linking the E/M, 7 and G lines.
The transfer area has three ADA-accessible elevators, as well as two escalators and several stairways.
A future developer will partner with the MTA to build an elevator connecting the Manhattan-bound E/M platform to the rest of the station complex.
The MTA said it remains committed to increasing its number of fully ADA-compliant stations — including the Manhattan-bound Court Square-23rd Street station — despite the financial challenge imposed by the pandemic.
The agency has received $8 billion in federal aid, but needs further funds to allow its entire 2020-2024 capital plan to be completed.
Here are two ways the MTA can obtain financial support to pay for bringing more of the 472 NYC Transit subway stations into compliance with the Americans With Disability (ADA) Act. This year, the MTA will receive $1.5 billion in annual assistance from various Federal Transit Administration grant funding programs. While working for FTA, I had the privilege of working with the MTA and NYC Transit in the development, review, approval and oversight of federal grant funding which financed construction of numerous ADA subway station improvements. They turned out to be a great investment of your tax dollars.
Why not ask any major business, college or hospital who benefit from NYC Transit subway stations adjacent to their facility to sponsor installation of or upgrades to existing elevator(s). Let them split the cost 50% with the MTA NYC Transit in exchange for naming rights to the elevator(s). The MTA needs to make some difficult decisions as to what other projects and programs may have to be canceled or reduced in the $51 billion MTA 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan which is no longer financially viable. This is necessary to find funding for installation of ADA compliant elevators at more subway stations in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island Railway stations.
(Larry Penner — transportation advocate, historian and and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office)