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Graffiti, Peeling Paint and Rats Plague Subway Platforms, Survey Shows

By Ben Fractenberg | February 2, 2012 10:48am | Updated on February 2, 2012 2:12pm

MANHATTAN — The trash barrels were tidy, but subway stations were covered in graffiti and peeling paint — and rats were at more than 10 percent of platforms checked in a new survey released Thursday.

The Straphangers Campaign surveyed 250 of the city's 909 subway platforms from July through September of last year. Inspectors with the transit advocacy group trolled for overflowing garbage cans, rats, graffiti, poor lighting, busted handrails and staircases, exposed wiring, peeling paint, water damage, floor cracks and missing tiles.

“We found the good, the bad and the ugly — from no subway station platforms having overflowing garbage cans to clearly unacceptable conditions, such as peeling paint at three quarters of the platforms observed,” Straphanger Campaign organizer Jason Chin-Fatt said.

Rats were observed at 15 of 139 platforms, and there was plenty of peeling paint at 110 stations. Inspectors also noted "substantial graffiti" at 50 of the 250 platforms checked at the 120 randomly selected stations over a two-month span.

Campaign organizers said they focused on conditions they believe the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could be held directly accountable for — not things like litter, which is more time and weather sensitive.

In the "good" category, every station had garbage cans and none were overflowing with trash.

The "ugly" conditions include broken lighting fixtures at 50 percent of the platforms, substantial water damage at 53 percent, and substantial peeling paint at 79 percent of platforms checked.

Stations selected for the survey included the Canal Street A-C-E stop, Penn Station 1-2-3 platforms and the West 4th Street A-B-C-D-E-F-M station.

"We felt this was a way to take a real snapshot of what was going on in stations," said Straphangers organizer Cate Contino.

"We wanted to take a look at indicators that are really important to riders, which we could report fairly."

The survey findings came as no surprise to most straphangers at the 86th Street/Lexington Station on the Upper East Side.

"The MTA has worked a lot on cleanliness, but it's still bad," said Liz Torres, an Upper East Sider who rides the train daily. "There's a lot of rats."

Fellow UES resident Meraj Chaudary said his complaints were less about cleanliness and more about safety — namely the yellow protective strip at the edge of the platforms and leaking ceilings.

"I've seen people slip a bunch of times on that yellow line. They could put a decent rubber on it so people don't slip," Chaudary said. "The peeling paint I understand, but there should be no ceiling leaks. That produces bacteria."  

As far as the dirt and grime, Chaudary said the fact the city's subways weren't spotless wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

"It kind of gives the subway character," he said.

MTA spokesman Charles Seaton said, "Improving the appearance and cleanliness of the system’s 468 stations is among our top priorities and our efforts have been enhanced with the early success of the FASTRACK maintenance and cleaning program along the Lexington Avenue Line. 

"In the coming weeks, this program is being expanded to the Seventh, Sixth and Eighth Avenue Lines."

In addition, he said a program was targeting station repairs and improvements.