MTA adds elevators at Astoria Boulevard 1

Interim NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg stands before one of the four new elevators at the Astoria Boulevard N/W station. But proposed elevators at 70 other stations in the next five years, including the N/W line’s Broadway stop, will depend heavily on federal funding in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

New York City Transit on Monday morning unveiled the long-awaited elevators at the Astoria Boulevard elevated subway station that serves the N and W lines.

Astoria Boulevard, opened in 1917, is the 117th station to be made accessible out of 472 under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the 20th in Queens.

And while interim NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg said in Astoria that the total would be up to 120 in the coming weeks, its far more ambitious plan of adding 70 in the next five years could be imperiled by billions of dollars’ worth of COVID-19-related financial losses — and great uncertainty over what Congress will do to help devastated mass transit systems across the country.

The MTA took the occasion to mark the 30th anniversary of the passage of the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.

“When we talk about modernizing mass transit, it’s not just about better signals and newer train cars,” Feinberg said in a statement issued by the MTA. “It’s about making sure all of our customers can use the system with ease. Make no mistake: we have a long way to go toward accomplishing this goal and today’s anniversary is by no means a victory lap. There is much work that still needs to be done, but this latest package of stations brings us one step closer toward achieving a more equitable and accessible system.”

The R line station at 86th Street in Brooklyn is expected to become accessible this week, with two L train stations, Brooklyn’s Bedford Avenue and First Avenue in Manhattan, joining the roster in August.

Under the MTA’s $51.5 billion Fast Forward capital project plan, ADA work on up to 23 of the 70 stations was to begin this year. But Janno Lieber, the group’s president of Construction and Development, said Monday that it will not work out if the plan’s money is cut because of the pandemic.

“Accessibility must and will always remain a core priority of any Capital Plan, but our ambitious 70 station plan only works if we have a fully funded MTA,” he said in the press release.

A $3 trillion stimulus bill passed by the Democrat-led House of Representatives in May includes mass transit funding, including $3.9 billion that the MTA says it needs to make it through just this year.

Republicans in the Senate this week introduced their counteroffer, a $1 trillion measure with no mass transit funding that MTA President and CEO Pat Foye on Tuesday called “shameful” and a “backwards bill” [see separate story in some editions or at qchron.com].

The Chronicle reached out to organizations that represent handicapped riders in their fight for access, but did not hear back from them prior to Wednesday’s publication deadline.

But state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) said in an email he is pleased that the first set of elevators is up and running.

“The long wait for new subway elevators at Astoria Boulevard is finally over,” Gianaris. “While there is more to be done to have a truly accessible subway system, today’s achievement is a step forward for all transit passengers.”

Gianaris in 2018 issued a report on the state of accessibility at the MTA, rating it the least accessible major transit network in North America.

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