A lift to the train

A lift to the train
Photo by Arthur De Gaeta

People will be left behind.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must build an elevator at the F train’s Neptune Avenue stop or hundreds of disabled and senior residents living nearby will be left stranded and vulnerable the next time Mother Nature comes calling, locals say. Making the station handicap-accessible might be the only thing that stands between residents of Trump Village and the Warbasse Houses — two major housing developments in a flood evacuation zone with a prevalence of aged residents — and certain doom, one advocate said.

“Whether you walk with a cane, or you’re in a wheelchair — I don’t want to be too dramatic — but that can be a death sentence,” said Warbasse Houses President Michael Silverman.

The assessment isn’t as dramatic as it sounds — seniors were stranded in Southern Brooklyn during Hurricane Sandy, according to a local politician.

“[During] the last storm, the mayor issued a mandatory evacuation order, but there were a number of people who could not leave for a variety of reasons, and one of those reasons was there was no elevator at the Neptune Avenue stop,” said Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island), who is pushing for the Neptune Avenue elevator.

As it is, seniors and disabled residents in the area are forced to rely on Access-a-Ride, a plodding service during the best of times, which often sees Warbasse residents waiting for hours in the co-op’s lobby to catch a lift, Silverman said.

“Access-a-Ride is very difficult, even under normal circumstances,” he said. “It’s a wonderful program, but it’s over-taxed, over-burdened, and waiting two hours to go to a doctor doesn’t start the day too well.”

Sandy also proved that oldsters can’t rely on their youngster offspring in a pinch, either, Silverman said.

“There were quite a few instances where they couldn’t come out,” he said.

The Warbasse president has been engaged in a letter-writing campaign for several years to get an elevator installed at the nearby subway station, petitioning elected officials and the transit authority, but it wasn’t until Treyger stepped up that he’s found a champion for his cause, he said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s response to Silverman’s request, however, leaves much to be desired, according to Silverman.

“From the MTA, to paraphrase, they said it wasn’t in the budget, they should be able to use Access-a-Ride,” he said.

There are currently 86 stations with handicap accessibility, and the transit authority plans on bringing that number up to 100 by 2020 as part of its “Key Stations Program,” which identifies the stations with the greatest need and enhances accessibility there, according to Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

However, that plan does not include Neptune Avenue, which lacks the ridership to justify the expense of an elevator, Ortiz said.

“Key stations allows us to focus precious resources on stations that will have the most impact — stations with higher ridership and-or that serve as key transfer points,” Ortiz said. “Neptune Avenue does not fit these criteria.”

The transit authority coordinated city busses — which are handicap accessible — along with Access-a-Ride to aid in the evacuation during Sandy, Ortiz said.

Aside from saving lives, an elevator would provide easy access to the dozens of other subway stations with handicap accessibility in the city, and not to mention Mark Treyger’s district office, if for no other reason than he’ll help you sign up for Access-a-Ride, according to scooter-bound Courier Life columnist Carmine Santa Maria.

“It would make it a lot easier to get to Treyger’s office,” said Santa Maria, whose reliance on his motorized scooter, Tornado, makes it impossible for him to navigate stairs. “They do things that others won’t, like fill out my Access-a-Ride application.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.