ASTORIA — A $150 million renovation project that will shutter four local subway stations for months at a time will equip them with digital screens, new staircases and LED lights — but not elevators, despite local leaders who want them made handicap-accessible given the price tag.
The upgrades, which will kick off Oct. 23 with the closure of the 30th Avenue and 36th Avenue N/W stations for up to eight months, are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "Enhanced Station Initiative" to completely overhaul 33 subway stations across the city.
Similar work will be done at the Broadway and 39th Avenue N/W stops starting July 3, closing both of those stations for up to seven months, according to a presentation the MTA gave to Queens Community Board 1 on Tuesday.
"We will have digital screens everywhere," said Bill Montanile, a program manager with NYC Transit, who showed renderings of how the stations will look when construction is complete.
The upgrades will include structural repairs and renovated entrances, granite floors in the station mezzanines, digital information screens, train countdown clocks, glass and wire screens on train platforms to help block wind, as well as new artwork, benches and trash cans.
Both the 30th Avenue and Broadway stations will also get new, exit-only staircases leading to the street from the Astoria-bound platforms to help "ease the crush load" during the peak evening commute, Montanile said.
A rendering of what the Broadway N/W subway station will look like after renovations. (Credit: MTA)
But members of CB1 were angered that the plans don't include making any of the four stations accessible to handicap riders.
"You’re renovating and spending so much money on these stations, and yet they’re not going to have an elevator?" asked Daniel Aliberti, who heads the board's Access and Disability Committee.
"I think that it's really disheartening for community members that have disabilities, and also to people with children who may need to use strollers or walkers or other assistance," added board member Katie Ellman.
Officials noted that while these four stations are not slated to get elevators, the Astoria Boulevard stop on the same N/W line will get four elevators in the next few years as part of a separate MTA project to make 100 "key stations" across the city ADA-complaint by 2020.
In a statement, MTA spokesman Shams Tarek pointed out that the agency's bus fleet is also fully accessible and "provides strong service across the neighborhood — including connections to other accessible stations on other subway lines."
Still, CB1 members argued that the $150 million price tag of the Enhanced Station Initiative in Astoria should result in more elevators along the subway line.
"You're renovating and you’re really not giving us anything," said board member George Kalergios. "You should provide the disabled with elevators to these new stations considering the amount of money that you're going spend from our tax dollars."
But Luke DePalma, assistant director of government and community relations for NYC Transit, tried to assure board members that renovations will be more than just aesthetic and will address issues of "capacity and customer flow."
"Those are real significant improvements to these stations that are measurable in people's daily commutes. It's not just flashing lights or digital screens and things like that," he said.
The MTA has said that shuttering the stations entirely during construction will allow crews to complete the work much faster. By contrast, closing the stations and working only during weekends or at night could take as long as three years to finish the project, according to the agency.
When each of the four Astoria stations are closed for construction, commuters will be advised to either walk to the nearest open subway station or to use local MTA bus routes.
Free shuttle buses will not be provided during the closures, though the MTA will be increasing service on the Q102 bus — which runs along 31st Street beneath the elevated N/W train tracks — to fit extra riders, officials told CB1.