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$18M Emergency Call Boxes Put in Stations 10 Years Ago Still Don't Work

By Nicholas Rizzi | July 5, 2016 6:25pm
 Assemblyman Ron Castorina called on the MTA to fix the busted emergency call boxes along the Staten Island Railway.
Assemblyman Ron Castorina called on the MTA to fix the busted emergency call boxes along the Staten Island Railway.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

STATEN ISLAND — Emergency call boxes placed at every Staten Island Railway station about 10 years ago still don't work.

The $18 million Customer Assistance Intercoms — which are meant to let riders call for emergency help with the press of a button — are inoperable due to a software glitch, according to Community Board 3 chairman Frank Morano.

Since they were installed, they've been covered with plastic and, if activated, will ring endlessly, he said.

"If somebody's having a problem, [be it] a mugging, God forbid, a health problem, a heart attack or something like that, and they go to call on these emergency phones, this is what they're going to get," Morano said.

"$18 million being spent to help people and nothing is being done."

The non-working boxes led Assemblyman Ron Castorina to call on the city last week to get the system online — and demand an audit of the MTA to see why the non-working boxes cost so much.

"They pose a significant risk for safety and security, they're covered with a garbage bag and some duct tape," Castorina said. "What a false sense of security this provides."

The call boxes were first introduced as a pilot program in 2006, spearheaded by then Councilman James Oddo to help improve security, the Staten Island Advance reported.

The project eventually expanded to cover all 22 stations across the SIR but the machines have been plagued with issues since they were installed.

In 2015, the MTA told the Advance that the system needed a "software update" and would be made operable, but the boxes have remained busted ever since, Castorina said.

A spokesman for the MTA said the agency is working on modifying and testing the software for the boxes and plans to have them ready for use soon.

Though the call boxes don't work, the security cameras at stations are working, the spokesman said.

"When somebody is getting attacked, god forbid, maybe their only recourse is to run and perhaps they can run past one of these call boxes and hit the red button on here," Castorina said.

"These call boxes are here and they serve a very important function."