WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — MTA officials promised that looming budget cuts won't affect their plans to make long-term fixes to the problem-plagued elevators at the 168th Street 1 train station — but Uptown elected officials say they're concerned the agency isn't doing enough to address the crisis.
MTA officials said this week that $44 million has already been allocated from the 2015-2019 capital program to replace all the elevators at the 168th Street, 181st Street, and 191st Street stations — as part of a $333 million plan to replace 42 elevators and 32 escalators across the city.
Governor Andrew Cuomo reportedly slashed $65 million, or 21 percent, from funding the state gives the MTA as part of his executive budget — which still has to go through the legislature before it can be approved — raising concerns from officials uptown about the fate of the 168th Street station's chronically broken elevators.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla held a press conference Tuesday at the station — where elevators have broken down at least four times in two weeks, causing trains to bypass the station.
In one instance, commuters were trapped on the platforms for up to an hour to be able to exit — as the elevators are the only way on or off the platform. In another case, FDNY workers had to free an MTA worker after a power outage cut service to all four of the station's elevators, trapping the staffer inside.
“We know this would not happen if this were 42nd Street, or somewhere in the big transit area,” Rodriguez said at the press conference.
"We hope that working with the MTA we can address a permanent repair, because this isn't about sending over a team and doing some minor repairs," Rodriguez added. "We have to send a message loud and clear that the MTA will send the best team and that they're going to be doing the best assessment and [the] best investment to these elevators."
James said the breakdowns are inexcusable — adding that this isn't the time for Governor Andrew Cuomo to siphon away $65 million from the MTA.
“Thousands of people use this specific station every day, to get to work, to go to school and for other activities," James said. "And not only does this present a huge inconvenience to the residents of Washington Heights, but it leaves them stranded and without other convenient public transit options, this community struggles to make it to work on time or to make it to work at all and potentially putting their jobs on the line."
James and Rodriguez have blasted the MTA for skipping Monday’s City Council Transportation Committee hearing and a Jan. 30 Town Hall meeting in Washington Heights.
"The residents of this community deserve more," James said. "We urge the MTA to meet with the council member, the assembly member, the senator, the congress member again to address the transit needs of this community."
But on Tuesday, Rodriguez said he hadn’t received a response that was adequate, and that he suspects the current plan in place is only to repair the faulty 168th Street elevators, not replace them entirely.
“We need to go deep into the cause of why this is happening so frequently,” Rodriguez said.