QUEENS — Straphangers got a welcome surprise at the Briarwood subway station as they headed to work Monday morning — the elevator was finally running, three years after it was initially scheduled to be completed in 2014.
“Finally,” said Bob Reid, a local resident, who was going to Forest Hills Monday morning. “It’s nice and clean, and most importantly, you don’t have to climb all these steps.”
The elevator at the Briarwood station, which serves the E and F trains, was built as part of the $159 million Kew Gardens Interchange project, conducted by the state Department of Transportation in order to widen the nearby Van Wyck Expressway.
It was delayed many times, most recently due to 1,000-pound "specialized equipment that needed to be ordered to complete work on the elevator" necessary for its security cameras, fire alarm and intercom, the DOT said in March.
The equipment was later installed in the MTA’s communications room, officials said.
The elevator finally opened on Sunday afternoon, locals said.
“DOT and MTA worked together to expedite the installation and testing process to ensure the community has use of this elevator," Diane Park, a spokeswoman for the state DOT, said Monday.
The elevator goes from the street level to the pedestrian tunnel leading to the mezzanine, sparing straphangers more than three dozens steps, but locals still have to climb the stairs between the mezzanine and the platform.
“We’ve never had an elevator here before so that’s a big improvement," said Nereida Gonzalez who had her 18-month-old daughter with her in a stroller Monday. “It’s great, because that was a lot of steps.”
Photo: DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska
Aida Vernon, president of the Briarwood-Kew Gardens Lions Club, a local civic association, called the elevator "a convenience to our neighborhood.”
“It’s not what we would have liked — which would have been a fully ADA-compliant elevator — but certainly it's going to help out people with strollers, people with heavy packages, people who might have a little bit of difficulty walking.”
Vernon also pointed out that in recent weeks a lot of road barriers and construction equipment have been removed from the area around the intersection of Main Street, Queens Boulevard, and the Van Wyck Expressway, where the station is located, “signaling that we are very close to the end of the KGI project in Briarwood.”
“It finally looks like Queens Boulevard again after six and a half years,” she said.
The two-stage Kew Gardens Interchange project began in 2010. The phase that included the Briarwood area was scheduled to be completed by the beginning of 2016, according to the state DOT website.