QUEENS — A long-awaited elevator at the Briarwood-Van Wyck Boulevard subway station is slated to be completed by the end of December, two years after it was initially scheduled to open, the state Department of Transportation said.
The station, which serves the E and F trains, has been under construction for years as part of the Kew Gardens Interchange project, a lengthy $156 million undertaking started in 2010 to widen the Van Wyck Expressway and rebuild its bridges and ramps between Union Turnpike and Hillside Avenue.
As part of the project a new subway station entrance had to be built on Queens Boulevard and Main Street, which opened in December 2014 after numerous delays.
The plan also included building the new elevator near the new entrance, which would go from the street level to the pedestrian tunnel, sparing local residents climbing 44 steps.
The elevator, which was initially scheduled to open in 2014, will be completed by the end of December, along with other elements of the KGI project in its Briarwood section, according to the state DOT.
“We can’t wait for it to open,” said Ricky Singh, 36, a local resident who had to climb the stairs Tuesday afternoon while carrying a stroller and holding his 2-year-old son. “It’s too much.”
It was not immediately clear when the elevator will be ready to use, because after its completion by the state DOT, it will have to be inspected and approved by the MTA, which will later operate it, according to Diane Park, a spokeswoman for the state DOT.
The delay in completing the elevator project was caused by multiple factors, according to Park, including that lead paint that was found in the tunnel during construction and had to be removed.
Aida Vernon, the president of the Briarwood Action Network, a local civic association, said that she "will be glad when the elevator opens ... to benefit the community.”
But she also noted that local residents hope to, at some point, have "an ADA-compliant elevator that goes all the way down to the platform level."
At the moment there are no plans to extend the elevator from the mezzanine to the platform level, according to sources familiar with the project.
According to Vernon, community representatives were told by state officials that constructing the elevator all the way to the platform would be too difficult because the platform is too narrow.
“So unfortunately it won’t be of any use to people who really are unable to go down any stairs," she said about the new elevator. "But I guess it will be somewhat helpful to other people with young children, people with strollers, and people who have reasons to avoid all those stairs."
The state DOT referred questions about extending the elevator to the platform to the MTA, which did not immediately comment on the issue.