Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (at podium), along with Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and state Senator Daniel Squadron (standing to the left of Silver), urged the M.T.A. to finally finish its work on the East Broadway subway escalator. Photo by Sam Spokony
BY SAM SPOKONY | After 18 months of delays and several missed deadlines for the M.T.A. to fix a broken escalator at the East Broadway subway station, Lower East Side residents and officials are still calling on the agency to fix the critical piece of equipment.
That escalator inside the F train station — at the corner of East Broadway and Rutgers St., and which lacks an elevator — has been out of service since August 2012, preventing many elderly and disabled locals from using what is essentially a lifeline for citywide transit.
“We need this done as soon as possible,” said Irene Alladice, a senior from the Gouverneur Gardens housing complex, at a Jan. 31 rally outside the station. Residents and advocates were joined at the rally by U.S. Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, state Senator Daniel Squadron and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Another local senior, Jocelyne Cuny-Panicker, 75, said that walking down the station’s 81-step staircase causes her intense back pain that worsens with each trip.
“But I have to do it,” she added, shaking her head, since it’s the only station within walking distance for her. “I have no choice.”
John Raskin, executive director of the advocacy group Riders Alliance, noted during the rally that one of the first complaints his organization received, after its founding in 2012, was from an Essex St. resident who wanted the escalator fixed.
“And it’s not just one person,” said Raskin, “because there are 13,000 people who use the East Broadway subway station on an average weekday, and many of them really need that escalator.”
The M.T.A.’s work at the station began because the agency was replacing the previous 24-inch-wide escalator with a new 40-inch-wide model. The project was initially scheduled to be completed in August 2013, according to an M.T.A. spokesperson.
The project was then reportedly stalled after Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012, when agency resources had to be prioritized for other stations more heavily damaged by the storm, according to the spokesperson.
Later, Con Edison interrupted the work on the escalator while replacing two generators within the station, the M.T.A. rep claimed, which pushed back the deadline to December 2013. Then, after apparent problems with some escalator equipment during recent tests, the transit agency has once again lagged behind schedule — now saying the escalator will be back in service by Feb. 28.
In response to the latest missed deadline, the elected officials had a very clear message for the M.T.A. during their Jan. 31 rally.
“We will not accept another delay,” said Silver.
“We are a community of many seniors,” he continued, “and we pride ourselves on the fact that our seniors don’t need institutionalization, because we provide services that allow them to stay here. This is one of those necessary services.”
The electeds also declared they would be back on the scene for another rally if the job isn’t completed by Feb. 28.
“It’s time for the M.T.A. to prioritize this challenge and get this escalator fixed,” Squadron said. “Not next month, not in three weeks, but immediately.”