STATION FIX- UP NEEDS TWEAKS
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is moving forward with its M train “station renewal” project in Ridgewood and Bushwick, but members of Community Board 5’s Transportation and Public Transit committees urged MTA officials at their meeting last Tuesday, Jan. 15, to adopt its recommendations for fixing one particular station.
Joseph Raskin and Vikram Tadla of the MTA provided an update on the plans to improve five stations on the M line: the Fresh Pond Road, Forest Avenue and Seneca Avenue stops in Ridgewood and the Knickerbocker Avenue and Central Avenue stations in Bushwick.
Raskin stated that construction began last year at the Knickerbocker Avenue station, which remains closed at all times until further notice. The progress made there can be seen by M train riders as they pass through the stop. Once the work is completed at Knickerbocker Avenue, the MTA will turn its attention to the Central Avenue station, which will also be closed at all times for several months due to repairs.
In Ridgewood, Tadla told committee members that workers have been busy installing new steel beams and raising the platform at the Seneca Avenue station. The old platform is slightly below the grade of the train cars, causing passengers to step up when boarding and step down when departing.
Workers will also install new staircases leading to the Seneca Avenue station mezzanine from the street, he added. It is expected that construction at the stop will be wrapped by as early as May.
Construction at the Fresh Pond Road station, which will receive the most improvements of all of the Ridgewood stops, has just started, Tadla reported. The 62nd Street entrance was recently closed to allow for the start of the replacement of its ramps and staircases.
Plans for the Fresh Pond Road station renewal include the replacement of the platform surface and staircases linking the platform and mezzanine, a reconfigured mezzanine (including a relocated token booth), a second set of MetroCard turnstiles at the western end of the station and the demolition of the ramp leading to the station from Fresh Pond Road.
Panel members were most concerned about the elimination of the Fresh Pond Road ramp, which would be replaced by a sidewalk leading to the staircase at the station’s entrance. John Maier, Public Transit Committee co-chair, stated that the lack of a barrier between the sidewalk and the entrance of the Fresh Pond Bus Depot (located below the station) would allow commuters to walk freely into the depot driveway, causing a safety hazard.
“If you just put a stair in at the back, all you’re gonna get is people pouring out and crossing into the bus entrance area,” he said. After Raskin indicated that a barrier could be installed after the project is completed, Maier replied, “The need exists now.”
“If you move that point in the back, we’re seriously concerned,” Maier added. “If your bus people have any say on this, I’m surprised they haven’t been screaming.”
Raskin told Maier and the panel that he would forward their concerns about the plans to MTA officials for further action.
Vincent Arcuri, Board 5 chairperson, added that the committees had made other recommendations to the MTA about the Fresh Pond Road station “which we don’t know” if they have been adopted.
“We have to reiterate those recommendations we made last time,” he said.
The Fresh Pond Road station improvements are expected to be completed by November, according to Tadla.
Finally, work at the Forest Avenue station is expected to start in March, Tadla stated. The improvements in- clude raising the platform edges, reinforcing steel barriers and improving the staircases.
Angst over other projects
The Cooper Avenue underpass reconstruction project continues to move along as scheduled, but Arcuri criticized the city Department of Transportation (DOT) over the exclusion of retaining walls on the abutments from the improvement.
“[The Department of Design and Construction] and DOT did not coordinate with the Long Island Rail Road [LIRR] for the reconstruction of the abutments and the repainting of the railroad trestle,” Arcuri said. As a result, while the retaining walls on both sides of the underpass will be new once the project is complete, the existing condition of the abutment and trestle will remain.
The DOT’s Hilary Gietz stated that the condition of the abatement and trestle is the responsibility of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), since one of the bridges is part of the Montauk branch. Though the city contacted the LIRR “multiple times,” she told Arcuri, “they declined to participate.”
“It’s their property,” she said. “We cannot touch their property without their permission.”
The bridge which carries 71st Avenue over Cooper Avenue is inspected for structural integrity and repainted as necessary by the DOT, Gietz added.
“The avenue and the train sit on the same abutment,” Arcuri retorted. “We have to go to the commissioner and ask why they did not plan this work early on and did not get a commitment from the MTA.”
Arcuri also stated that the board has yet to receive the master plan, construction schedule and proposed detours for the reconstruction of the bridge which carries Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road over the LIRR Montauk branch on the Ridgewood/Middle Village border.
The project remains in the design phase and is expected to start on or about December, according to District Manager Gary Giordano. Gietz added that the documents which the board is seeking will not be ready until work on the design is complete.
The board chairperson also expressed frustration over the postponed reconstruction of Wyckoff Avenue between Cooper and Flushing avenues on the Brooklyn/Queens border in Ridgewood and streets in southern Middle Village, both of which have been delayed for several more years.
“It seems nobody’s interested in it,” Arcuri said of the Wyckoff Avenue project. Regarding the southern Middle Village plan, he stated that the board has been trying for 20 years to get the project started, but to no avail.
“We have to start fighting for our people,” he added.
Giordano stated that the board is looking to schedule a meeting with representative of the New York and Atlantic Railway (NYA), which operates the Fresh Pond Railyard in Glendale. He hoped that a relationship could be established to address some of the quality-of-life problems stemming from freight rail operations in the area, such as the use of old locomotives which emit large amounts of noise and air pollution.
The DOT has published a purported list of bike rack locations within Board 5’s confines of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village. Committee member Donald Passantino, however, reported that, in examining some of the spots, no bike racks were found.
Plans for the creation of a public plaza on 70th Street in Glendale adjacent to the Glendale Memorial Triangle are being amended again due to comments by the City Design Commission. Arcuri said that the revised plans will be submitted to the commission soon.
Committee members were also asked by Arcuri to seek out and report potential locations where benches under the DOT’s “Citibench” program could be installed. The initiative will bring metal seating to outdoor locations such as shopping strips and public plazas.
The next meeting of Community Board 5’s Transportation and Public Transit committees is scheduled to take place on Tuesday night, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Board 5 office, located at 61-23 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale. For more information, call 1-718-366-1834.