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MTA Gave Scant Notice of Long-Term R Train Station Closures, Critics Say

By Amy Zimmer | March 23, 2017 8:21am
 Stations at 53rd Street, Bay Ridge Avenue and Prospect Avenue are the first of 30 stations for upgrades.
Stations at 53rd Street, Bay Ridge Avenue and Prospect Avenue are the first of 30 stations for upgrades.
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DNAinfo/Michael Ip

SUNSET PARK —  The MTA has announced the start date for its massive project to modernize three R train stations that will shut them down for half a year — and announced it to the public less than a week before the closures are slated to begin.

Though the MTA has been planning the closure for more than a year now, transit officials only sent out an official press release with the closure start dates on Wednesday, five days before the 53rd Street station will close for service in both directions starting Monday.

The Bay Ridge Avenue station is scheduled to close next April 29, and the Prospect Avenue station is scheduled to close June 5.

These are the first of 30 stations across the system to be revamped with upgraded electrical and communications systems, new LED lighting, Wi-Fi, digital screens for real-time arrival information and new platform edges, among other renovations.

Though residents looked forward to the upgrades, they were upset about the lack of communication, according to City Councilman Carlos Menchaca.

Menchaca called the short lead time and lack of communications in multiple languages “unacceptable,” and said it disregarded his constituents who speak Spanish, Arabic and Chinese dialects. He added that the MTA only recently announced the dates and posted two signs — in English-only — at the 53rd St. Station, and that there has been insufficient information about transit alternatives during the station shutdowns.

Menchaca said he plans to stand outside the 53rd St Station Thursday morning calling on the MTA to provide better community outreach in the neighborhood with more details about the service loss.

Already, station entrances have been closed by contractors with little community notice and parking has been lost, affecting local businesses as well as other nearby organizations, including schools, a fire station and library, Menchaca said.

He also wants the MTA to provide “reasonable” alternate transit options during the service interruption, including a shuttle service on Fourth Avenue, which has no bus lines.

The MTA is encouraging riders to use nearby subway station or the buses, the B37 and B63, that run along Third and Fifth avenues.

The nearest R trains stops at 45th and 59th streets are overcrowded, Menchaca noted, and the D and F lines, miles away and accessible by bus, have their own service issues.

MTA officials on Wednesday did not respond for comment about the councilman's concerns but in its announcement about the station closures said the project, with its full closures, represents a new way for the transit agency to complete construction faster.

Previously, the agency made station repairs in a piecemeal method that allowed limited service at affected stations, resulting in a more stretched-out construction timeline, often taking several years.

Correction: Due to an editing error, this story originally had the incorrect closure date for the Bay Ridge Avenue station, which will close April 29.