March 7, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
A group of Queens council members gathered outside City Hall today to urge immediate action from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority following a series of incidents involving debris falling from the 7 line to streets below in a few short weeks—narrowly avoiding people.
The council members representing the entire stretch of the 7 line in Queens—Jimmy Van Bramer, Daniel Dromm, Francisco Moya and Peter Koo—spoke to their shock after a piece of rusted metal fell and hit a moving car yesterday at 62nd Street, just two weeks after a wooden beam impaled a car windshield at 65th Street.
The two incidents follow a case of falling tiles from the viaduct in Sunnyside that also pierced through a car windshield in January. In all cases, people were inside the cars, and miraculously avoided serious injury or even death.
The Queens leaders, in a press conference led by Speaker Corey Johnson, said the MTA is far from addressing what was referred to as a “public health crisis,” given the ongoing, alarming instances of falling debris from the line.
“The MTA has stood by idly for far too long while the elevated 7 train infrastructure has crumbled before our eyes,” Johnson said.
The speaker, in light of the latest 7 line fiasco, took the opportunity to once more call for municipal control of the city’s subways and buses, an ambitious plan presented during his State of the City on Tuesday.
“The entire situation is really a sad but perfect metaphor for the MTA’s problems,” he said. “Where is the accountability and where is the urgency? Where is the response when New York City residents demand actions on New York City problems? Basically, where is the MTA?”
The agency had workers at the scene yesterday removing loose metal and debris, which follows a full walk-through inspection of the line the MTA said it conducted after the wooden beam tumbled down from a old supply platform two weeks ago. The agency also said at the time of the Feb. 21 incident that it would inspect the entire system for similar platforms setups that could raise issues.
“We inspected the area in detail and have determined it to be safe,” the MTA said. “The safety or our riders, employees and neighbors is paramount, and this was an extremely serious incident that we are taking aggressive action on.”
The MTA also began removing some decorative tiles from the concrete viaduct in late January that were found to be loose “out of an abundance of caution” after the Sunnyside Post’s report.
Despite the agency’s actions, officials say the MTA has not proven that it can be trusted in ensuring the public is safe from repeat cases.
“How are we supposed to have confidence that this isn’t going to happen again?” Van Bramer said, noting that the agency should have set up scaffolding, netting, and other visible barriers between the elevated line and the streets below.
“The only reason people haven’t died yet is luck,” he said.
Dromm and Moya said the MTA has long been difficult to deal with, especially as it relates to getting much-needed fixes on the line.
Parts of the line are currently undergoing and preparing for overhaul projects including paint jobs and repairs—improvements the two officials say only come after years of reports of chunk off lead paint chipping from the stations to the roadway and people below.
“It falls down all the time, every day,” Dromm said about the lead paint chippings. “It doesn’t always make the news.”
Moya said the MTA has long neglected the line, even in light of reports that found the lead in the paint falling from the structure was far above safe levels.
“It’s time to hold their feet to the fire,” he said.