LIRR to accelerate station accessibility 1

Carl Harbart and Gail Baum of Forest Hills say the ramps to and from the Long Island Rail Road’s elevated platform aren’t terrible, but they would love it if accelerated upgrades announced last week will include an elevator.

The Long Island Rail Road is placing accessibility projects at four Queens stations on the express track in capital budget amendments released last week.

The stations at Laurelton, Forest Hills, Hollis and Douglaston are on a list that also includes Amityville, Lindenhurst, Massapequa Park and Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island.

Carl Harbart, who uses a walker, is a lifetime resident of Forest Hills. Gail Baum has lived there for more than 50 years. Speaking with the Chronicle last Thursday after leaving the platform via a multitiered ramp system, both hope that elevators are in the station’s near future.

“The ramp is OK, good for a couple of reasons; it wasn’t excellent,” Harbart said in a subsequent phone call. “It has handrails on both sides, but the pavement is kind of rough. It could be a little bit smoother.”

Baum said the ramp on the opposite platform is better and easier to use.

“The one that goes to Manhattan,” she said. Both said an elevator would be a huge upgrade.

“An escalator would have to be a covered thing,” Baum said. “With my eyesight I’d have trouble getting off or on an escalator.”

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the preliminary design for the Laurelton station is complete, and a request for proposals has been issued with a design/build contract expected to be awarded later this year.

The Forest Hills, Hollis and Douglaston projects are in the preliminary design phase, which is expected to be completed in the second quarter of next year, after which budgets and construction timelines will be established.

While the MTA has not specified exactly what accessibility upgrades are on the table, Robert Glover, president of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton, said Monday that LIRR officials have assured him an elevator is coming.

Glover’s civic association has been pushing for an elevator for more than a decade, an effort that included morning rush-hour petition drives at the station in 2016 and 2017.

“I’m glad,” Glover said, adding he had received the news from LIRR officials last week. “This is good news.”

Glover said he believes an elevator will be installed near the 224th Street end of the platform, which now is served only by a pair of steep concrete staircases.

He also said he is in regular contact with state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who serves as chairman of the committee that oversees the MTA.

Placement, Harbart and Baum said, is important, citing the start of their return trip from Manhattan.

“There are two or three tracks in Penn Station that do not have an elevator,” Harbart said. He added that on other tracks, it is a long walk to an elevator if one has boarded the back of a train.

“We had to walk a full avenue to the elevator,” he said.