Home Manhattan At 69th Street, a new entrance and NIMBYs

At 69th Street, a new entrance and NIMBYs

by Benjamin Kabak

According to Upper East Side residents, only criminals and marauders would use the proposed subway entrance at 69th Street and Lexington Ave.

There ain’t no NIMBY like an Upper East Side NIMBY, and an Upper East Side NIMBY don’t stop.

Let’s take a trip to 68th St. on the 6 train. There, we will find one very crowded subway station and one very loud and particularly arrogant group of NIMBYs ready to face down the MTA. It’s not a very pleasant stop during most of the hours of the day. Last year. It was the 30th busiest station last year as over 10 million people entered the station, and with hospitals, Hunter College, Central Park and a densely populated residential neighborhood surrounding the station, it is a very popular destination for exits too (although those numbers are not available). For years, people who use that station have cried out for better exits and a handicapped-accessible station, and the MTA is ready to oblige.

Last week, at a Community Board 8 meeting, the MTA along with a joint venture between Urbahn and Dewberry presented plans to make the 68th St. station ADA-accessible. These plans include, of course, the installation of elevators at 68th St. and a slew of other changes that will make the station a more pleasant one to enter and exit. The authority plans to widen the staircases leading up to the street at 68th St. and will add entrances to the back of the platform at 69th St. as well. At a station famous for its exit time — some riders say it can take around five minutes during peak hours to leave — these changes would make it better for everyone.

Plans for 68th Street include wider stairways, elevators and some back entrances on 69th Street.

But wait! As this is the Upper East Side, home of the people who want better subway access as long as it’s not going to disrupt their precious isolated existence, a group of folks on 69th St. say a subway station entrance will ruin their block. They don’t, as some residents at the meeting said, want increased foot traffic on a street on the Upper East Side in the middle of Manhattan. “It would ruin the fabric of the neighborhood,” Nancy Friedman, who lives on East 69th St. (with a roaring fireplace), told a reporter after the meeting. “It’s the most beautiful block in the city.”

DNA Info’s Amy Zimmer had a bit more from the meeting:

Particularly on the west side of the street, the entrance wasn’t needed, [Friedman] said, because “people to the west don’t take the subway. Not to be elitist, but they don’t.”

The MTA’s plans spurred one man from the ritzy block to accuse the transit agency of using the ADA requirements as a “charade.” Board members bristled at the accusation, with the committee’s co-chair calling the comment “offensive to disabled people.”

In support of the MTA’s plans, CB 8 member A. Scott Falk…told the residents at the meeting, “New York City is not a gated community. The whole idea of putting an entrance on 69th Street is going to open you up to marauding down the street seems a bit reactionary.”

But CB 8 member Teri Slater took umbrage at those remarks. “This is not an elitist argument,” said Slater, who believes that there is simply more crime concentrated around subway entrances. She didn’t think there was a “mandate” for the new entrances on East 69th Street and thought the MTA should redesign the plaza on East 68th Street in front of Hunter College to increase the size of the entrance instead. “There’s a fundamental disconnect between the MTA and the neighborhoods of the Upper East Side,” she said.

So here we have Upper East Side residents from East 69th Street between Lexington Ave. and Park Ave. bemoaning one subway entrance at the rear of the train because “people to the west don’t take the subway.” They think ADA accessibility is a “charade” and insist that “this is not an elitist argument.” And these people apparently

Now Teri Slater, for one, isn’t new to this fight. She’s been in the news for decades fighting ostensibly for Upper East Side preservation. Elizabeth Ashby, a preservationist who founded the group with Teri Slater, gave the first toast. “We’re here to protect the Upper East Side from bad ideas,” she said to The Times in 2004. “We want you to be part of our army.” Bad ideas, apparently, include anything which may draw attention to her block whether it be good or bad.

Now, the Upper East Siders claim that because their buildings are landmarked, so too must their street corner. It’s hard for me to find any compelling grounds though for giving heed to their argument (which one observer termed 28 Days Later rage rather than good old NIMBYism). They don’t want a subway entrance on their corner because they think only criminals are subway riders, and they don’t want to introduce unsavory elements to the Upper East Side. That is an insult to everyone else. It’s a slap in the face to subway riders and the handicapped. It is, truth be told, an elitist argument, and it’s why urban planning policy is stuck in a rut in New York City.

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George October 10, 2011 - 12:37 am

Come on, man. These people paid a lot of money to buy property on a street that DOES NOT have a subway entrance. What, did you expect them to sit back while the MTA did what it wants to do? Anyone in their shoes would do the same thing.

VLM October 10, 2011 - 12:43 am

Are you seriously excusing this behavior? These folks bought apartments in a proverbial high-rent district because they were a block away from a subway stop that gets them downtown very quickly. They do so amidst a very pedestrian-friendly, densely populated neighborhood. Simply put, they don’t want people walking on the public sidewalks on their block. One subway staircase at the corner isn’t going to irreparably damage their block or their property. It is absolutely insane NIMBYism, and the Upper West Side is literally the only neighborhood in the city where residents bitch about new subway entrances. Everyone else in New York is clamoring for them.

Andrew October 10, 2011 - 2:49 am

Upper East Side.

VLM October 10, 2011 - 9:34 am

Er, Sorry. Meant Upper East Side, not Upper West Side. Apologies to my UWS brethren, many of whom would kill for a subway entrance on their block.

Todd October 10, 2011 - 12:47 am


Dan October 10, 2011 - 12:58 am

If I lived at that stop I’d welcome the changes. The MTA actually listening and improving a station is something that should be welcomed not despised.

Stu Sutcliffe October 10, 2011 - 11:40 am

What I said was to George, Dan. Not you. I completely agree with you.

Stu Sutcliffe October 10, 2011 - 11:39 am

I don’t think so.

Al D October 11, 2011 - 11:47 am

“I’d like a $4mn townhouse on a block with no subway entrance”, said one NIMBYer to the realtor. C’mon, I’ve not heard such a ridiculous statement. First, many people there bought in long before properties took off, and second, they were just fortunate to land on 1 of these blocks. I cannot believe the level of pettiness that is at play here.

Joe October 10, 2011 - 12:51 am

The fireplace story is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read in my life.

pete October 10, 2011 - 10:53 am

I eat 1 deep fried in fair trade organic shade grown soy oil kitten a day.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:55 pm

Isn’t it just?

Chet October 10, 2011 - 6:59 am

Tell you what, how about we we just shut down the entire Lex Ave line. This way you and your elitist prig neighbors won’t have worry about any evil subway.

We can move the entire line to hook Staten Island up to the system, at least here it would be appreciated.

In other words, grow up and be thnakful for what you have.

pete October 10, 2011 - 10:54 am

Lets remove the garbage trucks. They are blight on the neighborhood. They cause asthma. Think of the children.

Al D October 11, 2011 - 11:49 am

Yes, and Jeeves will fetch the packages from the corner since any diesel (other than a Mercedes) is surely not welcome on this street!

Scott Bowen October 10, 2011 - 7:36 am

Can someone please define NIMBY ?

jim October 10, 2011 - 7:42 am

NIMBY = ‘Not In My Backyard’

skunky October 10, 2011 - 9:32 am

have you ever used Google?

Stu Sutcliffe October 10, 2011 - 9:31 am

Awww. The poor babies on East 69th Street.

Larry Littlefield October 10, 2011 - 10:12 am

“It is, truth be told, an elitist argument, and it’s why urban planning policy is stuck in a rut in New York City.”

Actually, my view is that city planning policy is temporarily out of the rut. It went from build anything and steamroll everyone in the Robert Moses era, to its exteme opposite for 30 years after. NIMBY’s like this basically used to rule.

In the past decade I’d say things have been more or less balanced between the self-interest of locals and the long term interest of the broader community.

But balance isn’t the history. It’s been one extreme or the other. So we’ll have to see what comes next.

Bolwerk October 10, 2011 - 10:58 am

Like hell. The interest of even the locals is probably the station. This is a minority of locals who don’t want a station and have enough time on their hands, probably from never having to work, to prevent it. You read Streetsblog and SAS as much as I do. Surely you notice when NIMBYs do something painfully stupid to the benefit of nobody. The 34th Street bus improvements come to mind.

Maybe discussion has become more open to the idea that, hey, traditional urban transit isn’t such a bad thing. But we haven’t even started discussing new “great works” projects outside Manhattan.

Adam October 10, 2011 - 10:16 am

Seriously? Someone would call the 1990 ADA act a charade? I think someone should go live a week in a wheelchair and realize why they need it. He just seriously probably pissed off thousands of people who need it to be that way.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:50 pm

Perhaps breaking the legs of the person who claimed that the ADA was a charade would solve the problem there.

Miles Bader October 10, 2011 - 10:16 am

Could somebody please go torture these people over hot coals until they STFU? If they’re really rich you can use rare imported hardwood coals or something.

Whining incoherently is one thing—it’s our right as Americans—but trying to eliminate subway entrances is not acceptable.

Bolwerk October 10, 2011 - 10:59 am

I can’t see why any one resident should even have standing in law to challenge a subway entrance, or a subway for that matter.

Al D October 11, 2011 - 11:50 am

Are you challenging our fundamental right to make/file a claim?

Benjamin Kabak October 11, 2011 - 11:53 am

It’s a legitimate standing issue. On would frame the inquriy as: What is the redressible harm people who live on 69th Street are suffering due to the potential presence of a subway entrance?

Bolwerk October 11, 2011 - 12:20 pm

No, what Ben said. Some claims should be laughed out of court.

A handful of NIMBYs not wanting to be around evil poor people doesn’t outweigh the legitimate needs of 20,000 New York City college students, let alone the residents who do in fact depend on the subway. These people just don’t want to be around the very people who make up the majority of the society they live in. If they feel that way, they should live in the woods, not near Lexington Avenue. There is just no way the addition of a subway entrance is socially harmful.

Al D October 11, 2011 - 1:24 pm

“A handful of NIMBYs not wanting to be around evil poor people…”

These people should not be residing in NYC. Might I suggest Armonk since the evil poor people transporter does not stop there.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:51 pm

Better yet, they should buy their own private island. Then nobody can get there unless they can afford a boat or a plane.

Jason B. October 10, 2011 - 11:04 am

What is great about this is that this map points Manhattan north to the right. Meaning the west side of 69th street where no one rides the train won’t have to worry. The stairs enter/exit pointing towards Lexington, almost exiting directly onto Lexington.

Jason B. October 10, 2011 - 11:04 am

Wow that is some bad typing on my part…

Alon Levy October 10, 2011 - 11:04 am

I lived at York and 72nd for a year, and would use 68th, off-peak. It was fine as a station, but the extra exits would have been appreciated. But even that doesn’t capture the depth of assholery of people who live on Lexington Avenue and try to act like their street is bucolic. People who want to pretend they live in the Hudson Highlands are welcome to move to the Hudson Highlands and commute an hour and a half to work every day. On the margins it’ll help the city’s housing affordability problem, too.

The real Lex is busy with foot traffic at all hours of the day, until at least 10 or 11. Car traffic is a mass of cars every 45 seconds, timed to the green cycle, breaking only around 1. It’s nothing like the idyllic street in the parallel universe inhabited by snowflake NIMBYs. Hasn’t been this way since the 1850s-60s.

Bolwerk October 11, 2011 - 12:10 am

The NIMBYs must feel pretty threatened by all the “criminal” non-whites showing up by Subway to go to Hunter, one of the most diverse institutions of public education in the USA (perhaps only beaten by some other CUNY schools).

R2 October 10, 2011 - 11:15 am

Having commuted to this station for work for 3 years, I can say that new entrances are sorely needed, in addition to widening the existing ones. Definitely many instances where I would use alternate routes to avoid the crush. It’s simply awful and relief couldn’t come soon enough.

Anonmister October 10, 2011 - 12:05 pm

Totally on point about the need for MORE exits.

But I’d love to see your column do somethings about how the Second Avenue Subway will have ONLY TWO stations between 86th Street and 42nd Street. Talk about the NIMBYism in that one!
Take a look for yourself at the SAS wikipedia page and map.

Jonathan October 10, 2011 - 12:40 pm

I’m not saying that these NIMBY’s are right, but wouldn’t it help their case if instead of arguing that residents west of Lex don’t use the subway so there shouldn’t be an entrance on the west side of the street, they could say instead that the issue of slow exit times probably occurs during the evenings northbound, which would only require an exit on the east side.

Andrew October 10, 2011 - 9:55 pm

That’s a good point: according to the diagram, the exit on the west side would only serve the southbound platform and the exit on the east side would only serve the northbound platform. So, on the one hand, it doesn’t matter whether nobody from west of Lex rides the subway, since even people coming from the east will need to cross the street if they’re going south. But, on the other hand, the real crowding problem is coming off the northbound platform in the evening as each train arrives, so the east side exit is more important.

Larry Littlefield October 10, 2011 - 1:21 pm

I’m not sure what you mean. The current phase will add one station at 72nd and add service at 63rd and Lex.

In the unlikely event that the rest of the line is ever built, there would be additional stations at 55th and 42nd.

The SAS was designed as a sort of express/local hybrid. The idea is you would walk a little farther than the original IRT, which was built to compete with trolleys, but ride faster when you got on, with fewer stops to where you were going.

Anonmister October 10, 2011 - 3:09 pm

To Larry, what I mean is if you look at the map of the Second Avenue subway path. 72nd Street station + 55th Street station = 2 stations.
Sure there is a path to have the train serve 63rd/Lexington. 1) That (the Q train) is a fork from the main line: the T train, 2) the main Second Avenue line (T train) will have NO station between 72nd Street and 55th Street station. (Telling people to walk to 63rd /Lex is not a solution. They can already do that. If you note that the line is projected to be a stub ending at 125th, you’ll consider that the traffic will going to and from points south. 63rd/Lex is not an improvement. )
Therefore, the eastern half of 10021 zip code will have no subway station.

As to the point about an express hybrid: if you’re going to eliminate the express option, as the city did when it decided the express option too expensive, you should at least have the local option remain. The upper east side already has an express: the 4 and the 5. The discussions about crowding are all about 6, which has a decent number of stations. Even with the stations, the 6 is a much faster option than biking or taking a bus.

You can’t relieve the traffic on the 6 if you don’t have stations. What is the point of a new line if there are very limited stations?

Alon Levy October 10, 2011 - 4:47 pm

The station spacing isn’t that sparse – the average is 900 meters, which only seems high by New York local standards. And I don’t know where 10021 is now, but when I lived on the Upper East Side, it included 72nd Street.

Tsuyoshi October 10, 2011 - 5:04 pm

The portion of the line going to 55th/2nd and beyond is unfunded and probably won’t be built anyway. So it’s hardly worth arguing over…

But really, the most you would have to walk is 9 blocks between 72nd and 55th. As someone who lives on the 1, I really would prefer if, for example, the 50th Street station was eliminated. I would say there are about 30% more stations than would be optimal on the 1. So I am glad to see they are not designing the new line like the old lines. Or I should say, like the old lines are now, since they used to have even more stations.

Bruce M October 11, 2011 - 12:22 pm

900 meters is over a half a mile, and one will have to walk more than nine blocks if you don’t happen to already live on Second Avenue, like those of us over on 1st and York Avenues. I love how nonchalant you are with these distances that we in the East 60’s will have to continue to walk even after the billions of $$$ have been spent and this Q-extension finally opens. Care to join me on that walk during the month of January? How about when you’re older–say 50 or over?
The only benefit that the East 60’s will get out of all this is the new entrance at 63rd. & Lex.

Alon Levy October 11, 2011 - 9:42 pm

900 meters is less than most big subway systems in the world. Pity those poor, poor people in Tokyo with their 1,250-meter interstation average. I guess it works there because Japan has a young population and cultural disrespect toward elders.

Andrew October 10, 2011 - 9:58 pm

Actually, the 4 and 5 are a lot more crowded than the 6.

SAS will add the Q to 63rd/Lex, which right now only has the F. It will also add an exit at the east end of the station. Until Phase 3 is built – and I wouldn’t hold my breath – the new service at 63rd/Lex is identical to the new service at 72nd and 86th and 96th: the Q.

Jason B. October 16, 2011 - 2:37 am

Concern yourself with the 55th street station if phase 3 ever materializes. But you’re not seeing the station at 63rd. The MTA is putting in an entrance at 63rd/3rd for the F/Q. 2nd to 3rd isn’t that far of a walk than say 5th to 6th. And because of SAS’s hookup to the Broadway line at 63rd, I doubt the MTA could build another station between 72nd and 55th on the 2nd Ave line simply because of available space with the connection.

Jason B. October 16, 2011 - 2:41 am

Sorry, you do mention the F/Q in a reply to someone else. But seriously, NIMBYism? Where’s the proof?

At most this is a logistical issue. You can’t build between 72nd and 63rd because the tunnels branch there, and south of 63rd? Well, you’re already at a point where you’re closer to the 55th street station. 59th Street would be a traffic and gridlock nightmare with the bridge, so if it’s at 58th/57th, you’ll have everyone between 57th and 42nd complaining as well.

It is what it is.

Andrew October 16, 2011 - 11:58 am

It’s actually two connections – there will be a track connection from the Phase 3 segment towards Queens. So any station between 72nd and 55th would have to be wedged between two interlockings.

The distance between 69th and 55th is somewhat longer than the distance between most local stops in New York, but it’s not outlandish, especially with access to the F and Q trains one long block west at 63rd.

John-2 October 10, 2011 - 12:47 pm

Move the stairway off of the 69th Street on the southwest corner and put it on Lex. That’s about all the adjustment to the plan the MTA should allow.

petey October 10, 2011 - 1:30 pm

“only criminals and marauders would use the proposed subway entrance at 69th Street”


” “It’s the most beautiful block in the city.” ”

that’s preposterous. my block on 84th street is the most beautiful block in the city.

Al D October 11, 2011 - 11:53 am

no, no, no. Mine is!! And it should be shuttered to everything except people who live on the block, foot access only! Raise the bridge, flood the moat!

Scott E October 10, 2011 - 4:23 pm

Not that I agree with the objectors, but when you look at the first words in the first diagram of the proposal (at the top of this article), and see it reads “STREEL LEVEL” instead of “STREET LEVEL”, it is reasonable to believe that the residents thought the plan was not a seriously designed, scrutinized, and reviewed one. Like a resume filled with misspellings, it gets mocked and tossed in the trash. In this case, the first impression was a bad one.

Stu Sutcliffe October 11, 2011 - 3:02 pm

Has there been any comment from the people on East 69th Street since the stories about them showed up in the newspapers and on the web? I can’t believe that they feel this way, but do any of them feel embarrassed by seeing their comments in print?

Ted W October 13, 2011 - 12:51 am

It is amazing that all the proponents of these new points of egress touch on neither 1) their cost nor 2) the genuine ‘hardship’ currently being ‘endured’ by passengers occasionally waiting 5 minutes to exit at 68th & Lexington…..people regularly wait considerably longer for the trains that arrive at this (and most other) stations in the subway system, not to mention waiting longer for movie tickets, dinner reservations, airport security or a variety of other events ranging from pleasant to bothersome….would not the $$$$ be better spent trying to improve the service of what’s underground rather than reducing occasional waiting-to-exit-the-subway-platform time by 2 1/2 minutes?!….I feel most sorry for those who sympathize with this concept of ‘hardship’: it is that same warped perspective that blinds them to the ruinous reality of government waste….

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:54 pm

Extra exits are designed not for speed-of-walking per se but to reduce dangerous platform overcrowding. Speed-of-walking is a secondary benefit. Don’t you understand that?

Andrew October 16, 2011 - 11:50 am

During rush hours, the 6 runs every 2.5 minutes. so the average wait time is 1.25 minutes. Reducing the headway to, say, 2 minutes would reduce the average wait time by 15 seconds, to 1 minute. And reducing the headway incurs an ongoing operating cost, every single day, in addition to the capital expenditure required for the additional cars and possibly to upgrade the signal system. That’s a lot of money to save an average of 15 seconds per trip.

If this new entrance can eliminate a 5-minute wait to get off the platform, it would seem to be a very worthwhile addition. For anyone walking to or from the north, the new entrance will also shorten their walk by a block.

Ralph U February 17, 2012 - 6:46 pm

2.5 minutes does not sound like a big deal to you? now add in a fire and/or some kind of terrorist attack. that station is a nightmare waiting to happen if some kind of emergent situation occurred. it is not about the “occasional waiting-to-exit-the-subway-platform time” that is really important here. it is about minimizing the ruinous reality of government waste that occurs when we spend money after all hell breaks loose rather than before. what is that expression we used to hear all the time: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Matthias October 13, 2011 - 3:30 pm

People honestly believe that increased foot traffic will ruin the fabric of the neighborhood and make it more dangerous? That’s exactly wrong–more people will make the street safer, although any change in foot traffic will depend not just on where the subway entrance is, but where people are going to/from.

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