Video: What grows on subway station walls?By
When I travel from Brooklyn to the Washington Square Park/NYU area, I use the B train at 7th Ave., and despite its location along Flatbush Ave. in between Park Slope and Prospect Heights, that station is a mess. It hasn’t been renovated in decades, and it features a shuttered staircase that leads to a blocked off mezzanine. By itself, the staircase would be nothing more than an eyesore, but a homeless man has taken up residence in the station. It is not clean.
On top of the odor of human waste that often permeates the station, I’ve seen — shall we say? — physical evidence of a station inhabitant, and on more than one occasion, I’ve had to complain to the MTA about the presence of human waste on the platform. I’ve also witnessed MTA workers dragging leaking trash bags up and down the stairs. Generally, it’s a mess, and it’s indicative of the lack of care seen in stations around the system.
Now, I understand that maintaining aging infrastructure takes a lot of money the MTA, the city and the state simply do not have right now. I understand that if the MTA had its druthers, every station would get a fresh coat of paint, a thorough cleaning and dirt-resistant surfaces. I also understand that we all want to win the lottery tomorrow. That said, the system is a mess.
Last week, Greg Mocker, everyone’s favorite hyperactive muckracking TV news reporter, decided to explore the MTA’s crumbling stations, and he’s started a regular segment of his portion of the Channel 11 news. In it, he fields reader suggestions for the worst station, and of course, more than one have suggested Chambers St. While last night he stood only atop the J/Z platform and didn’t venture into the once-grand cavern, his video clip is notable for other reasons. Peep it below as Mocker tries to figure out exactly what is on the station walls at 18th Ave. in Brooklyn.
Of course, this being a TV news clip, we have tune in tonight to find out the resolution of the lab tests, but as Mocker and his environmental analyst speculated during the clip, it’s likely that the black and green gunk pulled off the wall will be mold. This can hardly come as a surprise to anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes in some of the system’s subway stations, but that thought isn’t exactly a comforting one.
As Mocker details, the MTA’s approaches to station maintenance have been varied. For decades, the authority tried a State of Good Repair program that targeted only six stations or so per year. Now, they’re trying a component-based program that targets parts of stations that are falling apart — staircases, ceilings, you name it. Of course, they still don’t have a plan to paint every station. They still don’t have the manpower or money to keep the station clean. It will remain a mess.
I’ll check back in with the results of the lab test tomorrow. I’m not sure we’re going to want to know though what various things are waiting with us in our train stations. Meanwhile, as the MTA works to convince us that things are getting better underground, the visual and physical environment underground isn’t. How do you balance the tension between technological upgrades and infrastructure decay when dollars are tight anyway?