New York City Transit has started a $24.7 million project to install elevators between the street and platforms at the Forest Hills-71st Avenue subway station.
Heavy equipment and Jersey barriers already were in place on Queens Boulevard last Friday when the start of the project was formally announced by MTA officials, state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
Lois Tendler, vice president of government and community relations for New York City Transit, said the station represents a huge step in the agency’s plans to have 100 of its 468 stations fully handicapped-accessible. The 71st Avenue station serves the E, F, M and R subway lines.
“This is the fifth-busiest station in Queens, with an average of about 27,000 people on weekdays,” she said. “When this station is done in October 2013, we hope to have around 80 completed.”
One elevator at street level will carry people to and from the mezzanine level. Single elevators will then run between the mezzanine and the station’s Manhattan- and Jamaica-bound platforms.
“And it’s not just a benefit for the disabled,” Stavisky said. “This helps mothers with strollers and people coming back from the airport with luggage.”
The project also involves improvements to staircases, the installation of tactile warning strips on the platform edges, signs, communications and signal work.
Work not directly related to the elevators also will be done beneath the roadway while it has an open excavation. Koslowitz hailed the project as a step forward.
“If you were to get on here I think the next available handicapped-accessible station is Roosevelt Avenue,” she said. “Riders should be able to go where they want to go, not where they are told they have to go.”
State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), who was unable to attend the press conference due to a last-minute commitment, also supported the move as an economic benefit in a statement issued through Stavisky’s office.
“The renovation will greatly increase train accessibility for residents of our community, while also providing more neighboring residents access to the shops in Forest Hills,” Hevesi said.