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Lift off: Pol demands MTA put elevators at subway stations in hurricane evacuation zones

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A local pol whose district was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 will introduce a resolution to the Council on June 7 demanding that the Metropolitan Transit Authority make all subway stations in hurricane evacuation zones citywide accessible to elderly and disabled people by installing elevators, escalators, or ramps.

Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) said the non-binding resolution would focus on making the subways available to everyone in the event of a devastating storm — a priority he said the oft-feuding mayor and governor should be able to agree on.

“To me, there’s no cost too great when it comes to the safety of our most vulnerable residents,” he said. “If we’re serious about helping the most vulnerable, let’s make sure our public transportation system can help people.”

The city’s Office of Emergency Management ranks hurricane zones based off the likelihood that they’ll flood during a storm, and Treyger’s district of Coney Island, Sea Gate, and Gravesend are ranked among the top areas citywide likely to receive the worst flooding in a storm. And a report published by the Waterfront Alliance last year shows the neighborhoods — plus Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach — are no safer since Hurricane Sandy, and that nearly 90,000 people in the area are at risk of losing their homes when the next superstorm slams the city.

The Office of Emergency Management notes on its website that locals should plan to use mass transit in the event of an emergency rather than cars, due to the trains’ speed and the reduction of the risk of dangerous traffic delays. But only 117 of the subway’s 493 stations are accessible, according to the transit agency, which did not reply to a request for comment by press time about how many of the accessible stations are in hurricane evacuation zones.

The only accessible subway stations in Treyger’s district are at Bay Parkway, which services the D line, and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue, which services the D, F, N, and Q lines — leaving most of Gravesend and the entire west end of Coney Island without access to an accessible subway station.

Treyger said he couldn’t forget the carnage Hurricane Sandy wrought when it ripped through Coney Island, leaving many of the neighborhood’s elderly residents stranded in its wake. Treyger and residents of west Brighton Beach’s Trump Village and Warbasse Houses — two major developments in a evacuation zone classified as Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities due to their high population of older people — have advocated for an elevator at the nearby Neptune Avenue F train station for years, citing the hardship that the staircases pose for the local elderly would-be straphangers.

One local who uses a walker said she’s forced to rely on her daughter to drive her around because she can’t climb the stairs at the Neptune Avenue station — even though it’s next door to her apartment complex.

“I can’t use the train because I can’t get up the stairs,” said Ruth Shapiro.

Another resident said she used the city’s beleaguered bus system — which Comptroller Scott Stringer characterized as “in crisis” last fall — because she can’t climb the steps, but said she’d use the subway if the station were accessible.

“We need an elevator — a lot of older people live here,” said Polinia Roytman. “We can’t climb the steps, so I take the bus, but the train is faster to get to the doctors and to Manhattan.”

Treyger said transit reps told him it would cost between $25 and $30 million to install an elevator at the Neptune Avenue station, and a rep previously told this paper that it was not eligible for accessibility upgrades because it was not a transfer station and did not have high-enough ridership. But Treyger said the station would have higher ridership if it were accessible to the large local elderly population, who are instead forced to rely on the city’s cumbersome and unreliable Access-a-Ride service.

“We have a very large senior citizen population that does not have access, and if they’re told they have to evacuate, good luck waiting for an Access-a-Ride van that will reach you well after the storm,” he said.

A rep for the transit agency did not respond by press time to an inquiry about its plans for the Neptune Avenue station or how much it would cost to be made accessible.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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