QUEENS — A construction project at one of the busiest train stations in Queens, which will add new staircases and elevators, is taking far too long, some residents say.
Work at the 71st Avenue station in Forest Hills, where the E, F, R, and M lines stop, started about a year ago and will take another year to complete.
During construction for the new elevator, one of the station's exits on the south side of Queens Boulevard has been closed, along with portions of the surrounding service road. In addition, last weekend one side of the Manhattan-bound platform was also closed as crews worked on new platform edging.
“It takes too long and it makes a mess,” said David, a Forest Hills resident and a software developer who did not want his last name to be used. He said he has lived in the area for more than 40 years and uses the station every day. “There is more traffic in the area and some portions of the platforms are very narrow now. It's dangerous.”
Other straphangers said that after one of the exits was closed, the remaining exit on the south side of Queens Boulevard had become overly crowded.
“There is too much noise,” said Mary Ruth Ackerman, who comes regularly from Manhattan to Forest Hills to play at the West Side Tennis Club.
The Forest Hills station — located close to the bustling Austin Street shopping strip and next to the popular United Artists Midway Theatre on Queens Boulevard — is among the busiest in New York. In 2011, it ranked 38th in the city with average weekday ridership of about 27,000. Last year, it also ranked 5th in ridership in Queens, according to the information provided by the MTA’s press office.
Despite the complaints, other residents said they were wiling to be more patient with the project, which will eventually bring three elevators, including one at street level, a significant upgrade for handicapped commuters. Currently the closest stations with elevators are Union Turnpike in Kew Gardens and Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights.
“It has to be done,” said Cynthia Cachan, a Forest Hills resident who said she uses the station almost every day. “It will be a big improvement.”
The project will also improve electrical and signal installations and bring two new mezzanine-to-platform staircases to the station.
The $24.7 million project is scheduled to be completed by January 2014, according to the MTA.