LOWER EAST SIDE — Residents fed up with repairs to the East Broadway subway escalator, which has taken it out of service for 18 months, rallied alongside elected officials Friday in an attempt to get the MTA to fix it.
The MTA has pushed back the completion date for repairs to the escalator at the East Broadway F station several times, forcing elderly residents to climb 81 steps from the platform to the street, according to residents and politicians.
The escalator, which needed to be replaced, has been closed since August 2012 and this week the MTA moved its reopening date from Jan. 31 to Feb. 28.
"It has been very difficult on my legs. It's awful," said Bernice Stein, 78, who lives two blocks from the station. "I feel dead when I get to the top of the hill."
"I have aches down the sides of my legs and I feel exhausted," she added.
Stein, who was one of dozens at the rally, added that the Delancey Street F, J, M and Z station, which is the second nearest to her, also has an overwhelming number of stairs, leaving her with no option but to take buses or brace herself for the climb.
The neighborhood surrounding the East Broadway station is considered a naturally occurring retirement community because of the high number of seniors, making the escalator particularly important, State Sen. Daniel Squadron said at Friday's rally.
"It is time for the MTA to prioritize this challenge and get this escalator fixed not next month, not in three weeks — immediately," he said.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Councilwoman Margaret Chin also joined the rally.
"Our Lower East Side community suffers enough from lack of public transport options and we rely on the East Broadway F stop," Silver said.
A spokesman for the MTA, Kevin Ortiz, said rather than just replacing the broken 24-inch-wide escalator, the agency installed a 42-inch escalator for "greater customer comfort." The installation of a wider escalator required some heavy construction, he said.
The impact of Hurricane Sandy on the city's subway system in October 2012 also meant resources were diverted, further delaying the East Broadway project, according to Ortiz.
Now minor issues such as replacing faulty parts have pushed pack the escalator's completion date back to Feb. 28.
"That is what we are hoping for," Ortiz said.
Sallie Stroman, 70, said she avoids the East Broadway station at all costs. If she is in poor health, the three sets of steep stairs can take their toll.
"I don't feel like walking up those stairs," she said.