For Dustin Jones, Edith Prentiss and the countless other disabled or elderly city residents who frequent the Forest Hills-71st Avenue subway station, traveling from the street down to the train platform just got much easier.
Three new elevators were officially commissioned for public use Thursday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by MTA New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and other city officials in front of the street level elevator at Queens Boulevard and 70th Road.
The $24.7 million elevator installation project to make the station compliant with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act began in January 2012 and was scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2013.
However, the project suffered multiple delays because of Hurricane Sandy and more electrical work than originally anticipated, pushing back the completion date until this week.
Wheelchair-bound residents Jones and Prentiss, of Hollis and Washington Heights, respectively, were two of the first people to ride the elevator down into the subway station and onto the platform.
“It’s so much easier now,” Jones said. “I have friends who live in this area, so now I’m able to come over and visit them more often.”
Previously, Jones had to take two buses to get from his home in Hollis to Forest Hills, but his commute time has been drastically cut with the installation of the elevators.
“Now I’m able to get here in just a few minutes,” he added. “The elevators won’t just help people with disabilities, but will help mothers with strollers and people carrying heavy bags.”
The first elevator connects the station’s mezzanine to the street while the other two elevators allow riders to move between the mezzanine and the northbound and southbound E, F, M and R train platforms
Katz thanked the MTA for adding elevators to the station, which became the 12th in Queens and 87th in the city to become ADA-compliant.
“This is a necessity, not a choice,” Katz said. “This is a small step toward making transportation just a bit easier in the borough of Queens.”
In addition to acknowledging the MTA and Ad-Tec, the engineering company tasked with construction, Koslowitz also thanked the T-Bone Diner, which sits directly across from the new elevator, for putting up with the years of construction that interrupted business.
“Thank you for riding this one out,” Koslowitz said. “It’s nice to have our street back.”
The Forest Hills-71st Avenue station is fifth out of 78 Queens stations in terms of ridership, with more than 27,000 people passing through the turnstiles on any given weekday.
The next ADA-compliant project is underway at the Ozone Park-Lefferts Boulevard A train station, which is expected to be completed in 2016.