South Brooklyn’s top electeds joined Metropolitan Transportation of Authority (MTA) Chairman Joe Lhota to celebrate today’s ribbon cutting for the re-opening of the Bay Ridge Avenue R station.
But candidates running for city and state offices along with advocates arrived early to protest the MTA’s missed opportunity to provide access to the newly renovated subway station. The multi million-dollar project that rendered the station inoperable for nearly six months has been a source of contention for residents that would have preferred more accessibility rather than a cosmetic overhaul.
“We’re not here to rain on anyone’s parade,” said 43rd District City Council Candidate Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach). “We’re here to say that $24 million could have been spent in a myriad of different ways than bells and whistles.”
“While the new station is open now, it’s still going to take me an hour to get to the city and it’s still going to be unreliable. People with disabilities still cannot use this station. So what did $24 million get us?” added Brannan.
The R train currently has 12 accessible stations along a route of 45, which spans three boroughs –– Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn. Three of the accessible stations in Kings County are densely located in downtown Brooklyn, leaving the remaining three-quarters of the Brooklyn route inaccessible, most of which include the Bay Ridge area.
The MTA told KCP that accessibility is a key priority for the agency and is being addressed on multiple levels. The agency announced accessibility add-ons to the 86th and 59th St. locations months before the construction of the Bay Ridge station began and most recently confirmed 77th St and 95th St will be added to the agency’s plan to provide more accessibility.
Still residents were rattled as to why the renovations at Bay Ridge were not included in the city’s original plan to provide accessibility. “They shouldn’t close this down for 6 months without opening it with an elevator,” said the coordinator of the rally Jennifer Gabory, 46 who was representing South Brooklyn Progressive Resistance.“
“We believe that’s its long overdue for the MTA and the city and state of New York to live up to its obligation under the American Disabilities Act,” added Gabory.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach) promised a group of three wheelchair bound activists that the Bay Ridge station would be accessible in the future. Golden has served on the MTA Capital Review Board since 2011.
Former staffer and the Republican candidate running for the 43rd council district, John Quaglione, echoed the sentiments of those rallying for an elevator at the station. “They understand the concerns of accessibility,” said Quaglione. “This is an aging community and a community that has a lot of disabled people in it and a lot of seniors and people with baby carriages. The district spans so many parameters that we need to eventually make all of our stations accessible.”
As were the sentiments of term-limited City Council Member Vincent Gentile (D-43), who too criticized the remodeled but inaccessible station, “It’s nice to have a spanking new station with all the amenities that go with it, but as I said downstairs, the service issues on the R line still remain and still have to be addressed,” said Gentile. “My call for a full audit of the R train service is still on the board and I’m hoping that new chairman’s action plan will incorporate it.”
Also in attendance were Assemblymembers Pam Harris (D-Bay Ridge, Coney Island) and Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook) and U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Southern Brooklyn, Staten Island).
“I think this is a slap in the face from the MTA to the disabled community, the pregnant women of the neighborhood, the mothers, the elderly, ” said Dustin Jones, 29, a board member for the Center For the Independence of the Disabled, New York.
“To rehabilitate a station without making it accessible is a real shame. It shows you how the MTA thinks about the sick and unhealthy.”