Nov. 18, 2019 By Christian Murray
The MTA plans to overhaul the dilapidated 52nd Street station along with at least five other stations along the 7 line, the agency told the Queens Post on Friday.
The MTA says that it is in the design phase to rehabilitate the 52nd Street, 61st Street, 69th, 82nd, 103rd and 111th Street stations– with a contract to be awarded for the work by the summer of 2020. An MTA spokesperson said the construction work could possibly begin soon thereafter.
The agency originally planned to upgrade five stations, according to a spokesperson, but is now doing six—with the late addition of the 61st Street station. Other stations along the 7 line could well be added.
“In a win for customers on the 7 line, what was originally a plan to do improvement work at five stations along the line is now expanding to include more stations,” a spokesperson said, noting that a contract award deadline of summer of 2020 is on schedule.
However, details on the types of repairs and changes coming to the stations, along with a firm timeline, are not yet known.
The work is long overdue as the 7 train stations in Woodside, Jackson Heights and Corona have been in poor condition for many years with stairs falling apart, platforms in disrepair and paint peeling from the station walls.
The MTA has been planning to upgrade the stations for years, even allocating $122 million to repair these six stations in its 2015-2019 capital plan.
The stations are among the worst in the 467-station system. The Citizens Budget Commission back in 2015 noted that the 52nd Street station was the worst station in the system—with 79 percent of its structural components—defined as stairs, platform edges, ventilators and more– not in a state of good repair.
All six stations in the report were listed among the worst 30, with all having more than 50 percent of their structural components listed as not in a state of good repair.
Community and elected leaders welcomed the news but questioned whether the MTA would keep to the 2020 contract schedule and remain perplexed as to why it has taken so long.
“It’s about time, long overdue,” said Community Board 2 Denise Keehan-Smith said last week, who noted the poor conditions of the steps at the 52nd Street station and the peeling paint. She said the 69th Street station was also in poor condition.
Community Board 2, which represents Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City, was notified by the MTA in 2017 that it was going to complete the design phase to overhaul the 52nd Street, 61st and 69th Street stations by the end of 2018. That never materialized.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was particularly critical of how the MTA let the 52nd Street station fall into disrepair.
“The MTA should have overhauled that station years ago,” Van Bramer said. “The fact that we have to wait so long is a disgrace given the conditions.”
The station revamps also come at a time when the MTA has faced heavy criticism over falling debris from the 7-train tracks. Since February, there has been a series of incidents—such as a piece of wood impaling a car on Roosevelt Avenue near 65th Street.
Assembly Member Catalina Cruz said the stations in Jackson Heights and Corona are in poor condition, noting that every week she hears from constituents complaining about the 82nd St. station. They complain about the condition of the stairs the most.
Cruz, however, has little faith in the MTA to keep to the summer 2020 contract schedule.
“The MTA routinely blows these deadlines and the only deadline they meet is to raise our fare,” she said. “Their inability [to meet deadlines] hurts the community because people can’t get to work or school on time—or other important places.”
“I will be working with advocate groups and my colleagues who have been tackling this to make sure we are on top of MTA and the governor,” Cruz said.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris noted that the MTA has been underfunded for years. However, he did say that the MTA has not always spent the capital it’s been allocated with wisely.
He said that when it revamped many of the stations on the N/W line in Astoria in recent years the changes were largely cosmetic and didn’t include elevators or improve service.
“I hope that when they do the work…service and accessibility improves,” Gianaris said.