UPPER EAST SIDE — As disabled rights activists rally for the Second Avenue Subway to be more accessible, some neighborhood residents are fighting against facilities to help less mobile people — with one even slamming additional elevators as an "obscenity."
At a recent Second Avenue Subway task force meeting, area resident Jordan Wouk reiterated his long-standing request that the MTA consider installing at least two elevators in each of the planned stations at East 63rd, 72nd, 86th and 96th streets.
But his suggestion did not go over well with all residents, some of whom said they believe that installing extra elevators would be unfair to stations without them.
"For us to ask the MTA to spend a billion more dollars when there are no elevators at all [at some stations] around the city is an obscenity," said Community Board 8 member David Rosenstein, who later tempered his opposition and agreed that the MTA should revisit the issue.
Another resident seemed to sympathize with the request, but still felt that additional elevators could make UES residents feel congested.
CB8 Member Teri Slater suggested that the UES seek a "practical and possible" solution that would "follow the law."
"Between idealism and realism, there's a middle ground," she said. "We're dealing with our own limited space on the Upper East Side."
Under present MTA plans, the East 63rd Street station has two elevators from the street to the mezzanine and the East 72nd Street station will have five — but only one from the mezzanine to the platform, Wouk said.
Wouk said he's worried that there will be increased demand for elevators in coming years because of growth in the senior and disabled demographics.
"We have an aging population," he said.
Several neighbors who attended the meeting — and who require wheelchairs for mobility — disagreed, adamantly agreeing with Wouk and imploring the MTA to reassess accessibility.
Donna Messinger, an Upper East Side resident who uses a wheelchair, asked attendees to consider the difficulties she encounters — and understand how additional lifts would make her life better.
"If you put two elevators in, it makes it less discriminatory," she said.
Ronnie Ellen Raymond, who also uses a wheelchair and lives on the Upper West Side at Broadway and 96th Street, seconded Messinger's statements.
Service outages at stations with one elevator, she said, have required her to make hours-long trips to the outer boroughs to get home.
"I don't think that one elevator is really sufficient," said Raymond, who also advocated for accessible pedestrian signals on the UES.
"I really suggest that you just sit for a day in a wheelchair and see what it's like for you to navigate New York City."
Many took Messinger and Raymond's side, with resident Steve Bernstein saying, "I cannot possibly fathom why this is even a topic of conversation — who cares that they're not in the other stations?"
Another person agreed. "I am ashamed that we're having this conversation," he said.
Bill Goodrich, program executive for the Second Avenue Subway and MTA vice president, said that the stations would be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations — but that additional elevators would simply be cost-prohibitive.
"It eats up a significant part of the capital program," he said.