UPPER EAST SIDE — A developer’s plan to build new subway entrances at a busy street corner will create a dangerous “obstacle course” for pedestrians — potentially creating a life-threatening scenario for commuters, locals say.
In building a 210-foot condo tower with ground-floor retail space at the northeast corner of East 86th Street and Lexington Avenue, Ceruzzi Properties plans to move a subway staircase to the sidewalk rather than keep it inside the building as it is now, plans show. The developer also plans to add an elevator to the new entrance to make the station's local platform accessible to those using wheelchairs and strollers.
While both of the original staircases are out of service during construction from this fall to the summer of 2019, straphangers will have to use a temporary 9-foot-wide staircase in the middle of 86th Street, representatives for the developer said.
Ceruzzi struck a deal with the MTA and the DOT after offering $7 million to replace the aging stairs and more than $1.5 million to maintain the elevator, according to reps for the developer who presented plans to Community Board 8 on Wednesday.
It was the first time in roughly a year since the plans first came to light that the developer met with the community board — and residents did not hold back in blasting the plan.
"You've created an obstacle course for pedestrians on one of the busiest streets on the Upper East Side," said new CB8 member Valerie Mason. "If you put [the stairs] back in the building, it will be a much better usage of sidewalk space for pedestrians who really need it on 86th Street."
Board member Rita Popper was concerned that pedestrians will have to dodge more than just the stairs and elevator.
"This is the most ill-conceived idea I have heard in a long time," she said. "This is going to choke this community. Every day, garbage will be put out on 86th Street, which is an eyesore to begin with... It's going to create a tremendous bottleneck on 86th and Lexington, even worse than what we have now."
Others were worried about the safety of closing off the original staircases if there were ever an emergency.
"When an express and local train hit at same time and hundreds of people pour out, and god forbid there's panic of any kind and all these people are trying to get out... people will die," said resident David Rosenstein. "To me, this is scary, and I don’t think it's being done right."
A Ceruzzi rep said there will always be one staircase open at the corner, except for one weekend to accommodate the switch from the temporary 86th Street entrance to the permanent one before the project wraps up in 2019. The temporary 9-foot staircase will handle the same amount of traffic as the two original stairs do combined, he added.
The elevator will be added to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it will only go down one level to the 6 train platform since there are "structural issues" that prevent it from going down to the 4/5 express platform, reps said.
Many attendees ripped the developer for not coming to them sooner with the plans so they could help collaborate on designing a better corner, ignoring claims that Ceruzzi was doing this for public benefit.
"Listening to you talk about the generosity in the amount of money you're putting into this project towards transportation, to my mind it translates that you've bought the sidewalk. You have purchased our sidewalk," CB8 member Michele Birnbaum said. "There's no reason this elevator and this stairwell should not remain in the retail space, except of course because it’s a big give for you to sacrifice the retail. All the problems we've discussed would be solved if it were interior to the building. We've had absolutely no input. That is really unforgivable."
A Ceruzzi rep told the public that the company has the right to move the staircase onto the sidewalk. When asked if there was any chance of moving the elevator and stairwell back into the building, he replied, "I don't think so."
At the end of the meeting, CB8 Chairman Jim Clynes announced that the board will create a new task force to carefully monitor the project.