UPPER EAST SIDE — The MTA is resurfacing a plan to add two additional stairwells and elevators to the East 68th Street subway station to ease overcrowding there — a move that had been shot down by community members when it was first presented four years ago.
The addition of the elevators would take up space on the sidewalk on Lexington Avenue and East 68th Street, and at least one new stairwell would jut out into the street on the southwest corner of 69th Street and Lexington Avenue, taking away three parking spaces, and possibly more on the south east side.
Construction could start as early as 2017 and doesn't need public approval to move forward. The plan was first presented to Community Board 8 in October 2011, and residents said they were concerned the changes would create unseemly obstructions to their "pristine" street.
The MTA and the board had subsequent meetings up until January 2012 to discuss options, but the board never voted on a resolution, and the MTA hasn't returned with the plan since.
Now, more than four years later, the MTA is planning to present the project to the board again on April 20, though it will only be an informational hearing.
The original proposal was estimated to cost $57 million, and the updated version raises the price to $70 million, according to the MTA.
This time around, the MTA will bring along one alternative to a portion of the plan. The original proposal had called for a new stairwell that would protrude five feet onto the street on both of the southern corners of 69th Street on either side of Lexington Avenue, taking away six parking spots total.
But the MTA is now considering moving the southwest stairwell to the base of the building at 931 Lexington Ave. mid-block between East 69th and East 68th streets, so that it wont intrude on street traffic and will be located on the commercial avenue as opposed to the mostly residential street on 69th.
The agency is still weighing the feasibility of this alternative though, so it's still possible that it will go ahead and build the stairwell where it was originally proposed, according to the MTA's environmental assessment of the project.
If it were to use the alternative, an existing stairwell on the northeast corner of 68th would be moved 30 feet east to make room for the new entrance.
The elevators would be built on the south sides of 68th Street, in order to make the station compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of them will have a bank that is visible on the southeast sidewalk, replacing the space where a flower kiosk currently stands, and the others will be underground.
The first elevator will connect the street level with the underground mezzanine, and the other two will connect the mezzanine to the 6 train platform below that.
The station currently doesn't have any wheelchair access and is consistently plagued with lines that snake up its four existing staircases during rush hour.
The plan also calls for widening the stairs on the southeast corner of 68th Street, and rehabbing the stairs on the northwest corner, according to the MTA's assessment.
The area surrounding the station is home to the Hunter College campus, The Park Avenue Armory, Rockefeller University and the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
According to the MTA's report, the project would have minimal impact on the area and will improve the hub, which is considered the 30th busiest station in the system with an average of roughly 37,000 passengers passing through each weekday.
"MTA NYC Transit is proposing to implement improvements to the 68th Street/ Hunter College Station to bring the station into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and add necessary circulation improvements throughout the station," an MTA spokesman said.
The project still needs approval from the Federal Transit Administration before construction can start in 2017. It's expected to be completed by 2020.
The Department of Transportation is also considering adding a crosstown bike lane on East 68th Street, which is currently being reviewed by the community board.