Home Brooklyn A push to open closed entrances ahead of the L train shutdown

A push to open closed entrances ahead of the L train shutdown

by Benjamin Kabak

Ads in a closed entrance along the G train illuminate just when the entrances closed. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

For the past few years, as subway ridership has exploded, entrances that were closed during the bad old days have come under scrutiny. Neighborhood groups have called upon the MTA to reopen these entrances — many of which are along the suddenly popular G, J/M/Z and L lines — and I’ve looked at these entrances numerous times over the past few years (take a look at my posts from November and January of 2015 for recent coverage). Now, one tireless advocate wants to use the L train shutdown as the impetus to open these new entrances, and his is a plan the L Train Coalition and MTA should adopt.

Alan Minor, a board member with Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, a community group focusing on Williamsburg and Greenpoint, has long pushed the MTA reopen entrances. The closed access points, often long blocks away from main entrances, would shorten commutes and better distribute riders along crowded platforms. But for various reasons, the MTA has resisted these calls. Now Minor feels the looming L train shutdown would give the agency the perfect excuse to reopen these entrances.

DNA Info reported on Minor’s work earlier this week. Gwynne Hogan had more on the ten closed entrances and 27 shuttered staircases throughout the small pocket of Northern Brooklyn:

While advocates have been working with local politicians to push the MTA to reopen the defunct staircases and entrances for years citing surging ridership, news that L train service will be disrupted between Manhattan and Brooklyn for between 18 months and three years has given them a renewed sense of urgency, they said.

“This is an opportunity for MTA to do something now that will help out when the L train shut down happens,” said Alan Minor… “More people will be taking the J, M, Z. More people will be taking the G. These lines have just a shockingly high number of closed entrances and staircases.”

…Take the Metropolitan and Lorimer G and L stop, a transfer station that could see a huge bump in riders switching to the G train if the L doesn’t run into Manhattan. That Williamsburg station has six closed staircases and one closed entrance, according to the MTA. On either side of Union Avenue where Hope and Powers streets intersect it, there are two yellow grates emblazoned with the words “Subway Keep Clear.” On the corner of Grand Street and Union Avenue, there’s another metallic grate with the same words, and across Union from that, Minor suspects, is one staircase that’s been sealed with concrete.

In response to the article, the MTA reiterated its noncommittal position on closed entrances. “As part of our efforts to accommodate growing ridership, we are studying and evaluating closed access points throughout the subway system and we’re looking at every idea for how to provide alternate service to L customers during any potential shutdown,” the agency said in a statement to DNA Info.

As I understand there are two major barriers to reopening these entrances. First, as I’ve explored in the past, the MTA is worried that ADA requirements trigger full accessibility if these entrances are opened, and the agency cannot afford full accessibility build-outs for these stations. Whether any group with standing is capitalized enough right now to take the MTA to court over ADA violations remains an open question, but with the government breathing down the MTA’s neck, the agency may be hesitant to so blatantly flaunt ADA requirements.

Second, from what I’ve been told, the MTA may not have enough equipment on hand to reopen entrances that have been closed for a long time. Due to the opening of the 7 line extension and the impending-ish debut of the Second Ave. Subway, all MetroCard turnstiles are spoken for, and the agency doesn’t have a bunch of HEETs in a closet somewhere. Consider the institutional desire to move beyond the MetroCard and not spend much money on an obsolete technology, the MTA doesn’t want to open entrances closed before the advent of the MetroCard without fare payment equipment on hand, and they don’t want to pony up big bucks for turnstile technology with a five-year expected life span. So these entrances remain in limbo.

While the L train coalition has busied itself with pie-in-the-sky proposals for a new East River subway tunnel, this is the kind of improvement the group should be focusing on. If the MTA can help disperse some customers, making up for the lost capacity of the L train tunnel gets incrementally easier. It’s a baby step but a step nonetheless, and it will take many steps to overcome the dreaded L train shutdown.

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54 comments

subway-buff March 2, 2016 - 2:22 am

There are four other issues to be resolved:
1. Many are used for storage and office space or fan plants or mechanical rooms.
2. Some entrances have the street stairway missing.
3. Some entrances are slabbed over at street level and/or tiled over at the platform level.
4.Many need new lighting.

Rebuilding missing stairways, moving offices and mechanical rooms, replacing lighting, and removing slabbed over entries and tiled over entries cost money and would require competitive bidding.

I am not saying it can not be done but Many are not as simple as unlocking gates

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subway-buff March 2, 2016 - 2:28 am

PS : The stations on the J between Hewes and Chauncey have an emergency exit from the closed end. In case of an emergency the station agent can remotely unlock these emergency exits. The buttons in the booth have two options :
1.unlock the gate so it can be pulled open
2.keep the gate wide open.

Supervisors, FDNY , NYPD also have keys

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Alan Minor November 2, 2016 - 3:18 pm

Could you shoot me an email at firstname[dot]lastname[at]gmail[dot]com?

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Eric March 2, 2016 - 5:34 am

So the MTA can’t find a few thousand dollars for new faregates, but it can find billions of dollars to throw away on station renovations that look pretty but provide absolutely no benefit to passengers?

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Chris March 2, 2016 - 6:04 am

People will simply not ride a subway that looks like it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Making stations look good makes them look safer, which in turn increases actual safety (broken windows theory), which benefits passengers.

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Phillip Roncoroni March 2, 2016 - 8:33 am

67th Ave. (M/R) looks absolutely fine, isn’t a transfer point, and doesn’t need a renovation. It’s a waste of money. The money should expand service eastward, so the real long term revenue drain, buses, aren’t relied upon as heavily in all of Queens, east of Flushing, Kew Gardens, and 179th Street. The per rider operating cost of the buses here is absurd.

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rewenzo March 2, 2016 - 8:59 am

I don’t see it. The main problem the MTA faces right now is crippling overcrowding because of insatiable demand. One crisis the MTA is not facing right now is “people don’t want to ride the subway because some of the stations are gross.” My station is gross, and I don’t really care because I still need to go to work. Even if I had another station nearby that was immaculate but added a minute to my commute, or decreased my chances of getting a seat on a train by 1%, I would stick with my crumbling bomb shelter.

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tacony March 2, 2016 - 9:43 am

Last week there was yellow caution tape blocking off an area in Union Square where it looked like the many years of old, thick peeling paint were falling off the ceiling. This was right in the middle of the area where you walk to get from the NQR to the SE exit, delaying the massive crowds trying to transfer or exit.

The stupid “gap fillers” on the 4/5/6 at Union Square often cause serious delays. Even when they don’t cause extremely long delays themselves, a 1 minute issue there makes it hard to keep to schedule, causing further crowding up the line.

J service has also recently been disrupted by “falling debris” at Chambers Street.

The stations are in such bad shape that it does impact the actual use of the station. It’s not just aesthetics.

Also, the idea that allowing stations to become disgusting is okay because demand to ride is high is not a helpful way to look at transit access in the city, and nobody would accept that view for other public facilities. Our oft-derided “3rd world” LGA airport for instance, is at least regularly cleaned. Are people saying “who cares, just run more flights”? No, we’re spending billions to make LGA look even prettier, because World Class Cities (R) have sparkling airports to attract wealthy tourists and business travelers, but peon commuters should have to dodge rats on the platform and accumulated steel dust on the walls.

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22r March 2, 2016 - 4:07 pm

“People will simply not ride a subway that looks like it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland.” -Chris

Have you been on NYC subway in the past 50 years? It already looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s ridiculous and embarrassing. And yet most people keep on riding it.

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j.b. diGriz March 2, 2016 - 5:09 pm

I go out of my way to ride post-apocalyptic wasteland subways.

Fallout 3, Fallout 4…

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Alan Minor March 2, 2016 - 7:22 am

The looming L Train shutdown isn’t the only closure that will necessitate re-opening closed entrances in Bed-Stuy, Bushwick and Williamsburg.

MTA will be conducting flood mitigation work at five stations in CB1 later on this year. As part of the project, each affected station will have all of its entrances closed for three months — although they won’t be closed all at once. Four of these stations have a total of 14 closed staircases: Broadway G (6), Flushing Av G (2), Lorimer St L (2) and Metropolitan Av G (4).

But, wait, there’s more. As y’all know, MTA announced that they’ll be closing 30 stations for significant periods of time for station upgrades. Four of those closures — the Flushing Av G, Classon Av G, Clinton-Washington Avs C and Kingston-Throop Avs C stations — will result in riders being forced to use stations with shuttered entrances. Those stations are the Myrtle-Willoughby Avs G, Bedford-Nostrand Avs G, Franklin Av-Fulton St A/C/S and Nostrand Av A/C.

For the record, some members of the L Train Coalition have been calling for re-opening closed entrances at the onset — the executive director of the Grand Street BID, some business owners and myself. It just has not received coverage until now for whatever reason.

Anyways, Ben, I appreciate your continued coverage of this issue!

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rewenzo March 2, 2016 - 9:01 am

I don’t understand this ADA business. Is the MTA’s need to comply with the ADA triggered by re-opening a closed entrance to an already existing subway station? That would seem to have predictably perverse effects.

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Nathanael March 3, 2016 - 10:38 pm

OK, I know the ADA rules pretty well now.

If it’s just a matter of unlocking a door, it’s not a “renovation” and the MTA can just do it.

If the work necessary is really cheap, so that 20% of the funding wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to make a wheelchair-accessible entrance anywhere, the MTA can do it — they probably still have to put up handrails and yellow caution strips and do other ADA things.

If the main entrance to the subway station is already wheelchair-accessible, nobody is going to bother them for opening a secondary staircase entrance.

If the subway station is entirely non-accessible, and the MTA spends tens of millions or more on opening up a hole in the sidewalk (where the old entrance was paved over), building a new set of fencing and awning over the entrance, retiling the walls, etc. etc. etc., then they *are* going to get in trouble for not making the station accessible first.

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Alan Minor March 2, 2016 - 9:04 am

The ADA line doesn’t appear to hold water given what MTA is doing at the Grand Street L station.

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SEAN March 2, 2016 - 9:41 am

Alan,

As I understand it, simply opening a closed entrance doesn’t trigger ADA compliance since the station it self is not being altered in a “substantial way.” The MTA is running scared do to past ADA violations. If they do nothing, maybe the heat from the feds will be turned down a bit.

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Alan Minor March 2, 2016 - 10:53 am

My comment was in reference to the work they are doing at that station, which entails rebuilding all four staircases. This, based on my understanding of case law, would qualify as making a significant “alteration” to the station. Yet these upgrades don’t include making the station ADA accessible.

Someone correct me if I’m mistaken.

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SEAN March 2, 2016 - 11:34 am

As I recall – Only areas that are being substantially renovated fall under ADA requirements. That’s why I question your above statement. However you maybe right & I maybe missing something in translation. The info I’m drawing from comes from 1990 MTA docs that were passed out at hearings plus EPVA audio docs on ADA regulations.

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Joe Steindam March 2, 2016 - 11:56 am

IIRC (it’s been awhile since I’ve sat down with the ADA in full text), it’s not just whether a renovation constitutes a significant alteration, there is also a cost element that needs to be triggered. The project needs to be large enough that the cost of accessibility improvements do not significantly increase the total project cost (I think the threshold is 20% of planned project costs) for an agency to be required to make accessibility improvements. I could have misinterpreted this passage, and it’s unclear whether reopening a station entrance triggers a separate part of the law.

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SEAN March 2, 2016 - 2:37 pm

Correct. I remembered that as well, but neglected to post it do to length.

Nathanael March 3, 2016 - 10:40 pm

One more caveat: Segmenting the project into separate projects in order to evade the ADA requirements is not permitted.

So if 20% of the *entire* project cost would get you an accessible entrance, you can’t break it up into 5 sub-projects and then claim that 20% of each of them wouldn’t get you an accessible entrance.

Marc March 2, 2016 - 4:42 pm

Neither the cost nor the scope of the rehabilitation of Fourth Avenue forced the MTA to include ADA-compliant access, and that rehabilitation included the reopening of the long-closed entrances on the east side of Fourth Avenue.

subwaybuff March 2, 2016 - 6:40 pm

ADA does allow for waivers for historic structures or structures which can not support full ADA. In the case of MTA, a waiver was granted for Union Square on the 4/5/6 due to the curved platform . Adding elevators would esquire opening the street to straighten the tracks to allow removal of the curve.A waiver was also granted for Smith and 9th for elevators, but all other ADA requirements had to be met including equal height stair treads, ADA compliant handrails, etc.

I am a retired Station Agent for NYCT and we were given basic training in ADA but not a full detailed analysis of ADA.

Nathanael March 3, 2016 - 10:41 pm

Smith & 9th should never have been given the elevator waiver.

It was straightforward to design a new groud-level headhouse east of the river with direct elevator access and would have been a hell of a lot cheaper to build than the current arrangement.

Nobody bothered to sue over that one but they should have.

g March 2, 2016 - 9:09 am

So all we have to wait for is the MTA to be so flush with cash that it can afford ADA access at all it’s stations, have selected and deployed a Metrocard replacement, and finds the institutional will to accede to such requests.

I think it’s probable that star trek style transporters will render subways obsolete before that happens.

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Ted K. March 2, 2016 - 9:51 am

Could fare gates from the least used stations, say one or two each, be transfered to the re-opened entrances ? This would keep capital costs down, have minimal impact on the raided stns., and could be done relatively quickly. Or is this too simple a solution ?

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Rich B March 2, 2016 - 10:04 am

Yes! There are hundreds of stations in our huge system. Surely there are a handful of stations that have seen a decline in ridership, that could spare a turnstile or two.

Alternately, why not re-open the stairways, but make them exit-only? That’s not ideal, but it solves half the problem, at least. Then when we have the new fare system and new turnstiles in a few years, those stairways would graduate to full entrances.

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Rich B March 2, 2016 - 10:12 am

Umm…

two yellow grates emblazoned with the words “Subway Keep Clear.” On the corner of Grand Street and Union Avenue, there’s another metallic grate with the same words.

These sounds like emergency exits, not closed former public entrances. I’m not familiar with the station, so is that the case, or are they actually closed entrances?

If they’re just emergency exits – built originally as emergency exits – then they can’t just be “opened”. There might just be a steep set of emergency stairs – a ladder, really – instead of normal stairs. There wouldn’t even be room for real stairs without ripping out everything and enlarging the space. The passageways to the stairs might not lead to the platform at all. They might also be narrow passages with low ceilings, with no room for turnstiles. They would need to be re-built almost completely. That’s a wildly different prospect from simply re-opening a closed entrance.

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Alan Minor March 2, 2016 - 11:22 am

Ben wrote an informative post about this station’s closed entrances three years ago:

http://bkabak.wpengine.com/201.....assageway/

Per MTA, there are two closed entrances and four closed staircases at this station.

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Robj March 2, 2016 - 10:33 am

I have a history question:
Deuce Bigalow European Gigalo, and Four Brothers are both movies from 2005. Does this mean the entrance was closed circa 2005?

I thought many of these entrances were closed during the “bad old days” due to concerns over crime. 2005 strikes me as at least a couple years after this era. What gives?

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tacony March 2, 2016 - 3:10 pm

Yes, a lot of the station exits were not closed in the “bad old days” because of low ridership and crime, but rather they closed because the MTA simply decided they’d rather not bother with cleaning and maintaining the exits for public use and/or they wanted more space for storage of equipment, MTA police, etc. Riders’ convenience is not their priority.

And why not? I doubt they even had to get any kind of public approval to do so. They can quietly close things, but opening things triggers fears of ADA compliance. It’s a great system…

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Nathanael March 3, 2016 - 10:44 pm

There was argument during the passage of the ADA over whether everyone should be required to comply immediately.

The compromise made in most places was that compliance would only be required for upgrades. Poor Amtrak *was* required to make *all* stations accessible (and with much much less funding than the MTA, has not managed to do so).

Closing an entrance is a downgrade. Opening one is an upgrade.

Nobody expected the MTA to be so deliberately noncompliant with the ADA. Every other agency in the country is doing very well at complying with the ADA. Watch out; MTA’s scofflaw attitude may cause the law to be changed to require NYC to make more stations accessible.

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Kai B March 7, 2016 - 11:21 am

The closures have occurred in recent times as well. The much-discussed Metropolitan Avenue (G) Grand Street-side closure happened along with the station renovation ca. 1999/2000. I believe Broadway (G) has had one of its exits closed for only a few years now (with temporary walls).

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subwaybuff March 7, 2016 - 1:11 pm

It is a common practice to reclaim some mezzanine space when stations are renovated.A recent example is Jay Street A/C/F and Queens Plaza. Both stations have d the space converted to office,storage, mechanical, and employee space.

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JJJJ March 2, 2016 - 10:54 am

I dont buy the faregate issue. PATH is adding new gates at Harrison, and those gates take Metrocards. MTA can buy those as well.

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pete March 2, 2016 - 12:49 pm

The plastic “dip” faregates PATH and airtrain use would all be vandalized and broken within days if used in NYCT.

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imogen March 2, 2016 - 1:00 pm

because new york is special, right?

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John March 2, 2016 - 1:05 pm

Why?

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tacony March 2, 2016 - 2:49 pm

Yes, please tell me about how kids in Newark and Jersey City are so much more well-behaved than NYC kids. The idea that PATH ridership is somehow above vandalizing where NYC residents are uniquely animal is totally ridiculous.

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tacony March 2, 2016 - 2:54 pm

Right? But let’s go further: why doesn’t the MTA literally use the exact same faregates so we can use the PATH SmartLink card on the NYC subway? We could have RFID payment technology implemented so quickly. Don’t reinvent the wheel here.

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R March 2, 2016 - 10:58 am

Don’t forget to thank your federal government, legislators, and regulators for their part in screwing the public. Tell Schumer, et al to change the stupid [if well intentioned] ada law to something REASONABLE.

And I would wager, as other commenters have noted, that the mta could rustle up a few turnstiles that could be spared from some lightly used stations. But that would take some thought.

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Nathanael March 3, 2016 - 10:45 pm

The federal government will probably be happy to change the ADA law to require that NYCT make ALL stations wheelchair-accessible IMMEDIATELY.

The current law WAS the reasonable compromise. Every transit agency in the country outside NYC has found it perfectly straightforward to comply with it. What’s wrong with NYC?

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Rob March 2, 2016 - 11:00 am

As many transit systems are discarding their “MetroCard” turnstiles, can’t the MTA find any second-hand? Sort of the way San Francisco bought all the trolley cars from other cities? They can even have little labels showing their original city! 😉

And these staircases to the Flushing Avenue J,M el station look like an easy open: https://goo.gl/maps/JZYYjvfEA8P2

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pete March 2, 2016 - 12:53 pm

Chicago is the only other city that used Metrocard http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/.....otos51.jpg . They like their turnstyles and wont give them to NYC.

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Brian Howald March 2, 2016 - 11:45 am

As has been pointed out before in this blog (the Q70 fare proposal comes to mind), MTA and NYCT suffer heavily from Not Invented Here syndrome when evaluating outside ideas.

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Nathanael March 3, 2016 - 10:46 pm

This may explain their unwillingness to comply with the ADA, too. It wasn’t invented in NY. *sigh*

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Ralfff March 2, 2016 - 1:08 pm

Hey Alan and co., have you heard of this plan(s) to eliminate Hewes and Lorimer stations and build one station in Broadway with a G transfer? It would be nice to leverage your media audience for permanent benefits as you are doing, but on a bigger scale. http://www.vanshnookenraggen.c.....g-and-jmz/

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Bowery March 2, 2016 - 1:20 pm

Mta should reopen the long closed Bowery western exit.

The station has grown and theres tons of development in the bowery.

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tacony March 2, 2016 - 3:25 pm

This page (http://forgotten-ny.com/2012/0.....n-a-train/) indicates that “This exit/entrance had been closed at Lafayette Avenue & S. Portland Avenue was closed for many years. Due to the area’s gentrification and growing population, community pressure was put on the MTA to reopen this portal.”

When did this happen? I assume this was post-ADA? What changed that this isn’t possible anymore? It just slipped under the radar and the MTA is scared to do this again?

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tacony March 2, 2016 - 3:36 pm

This (http://subwaynut.com/ind/fultong/index.php) also states “The station used to have a good-sized mezzanine almost all of it has been closed off and turned into a Track Crew Quarters, there are various staircases along the mezzanine that say Employees Only. One tiny section of it very recently has been re-opened for passenger use for an exit to South Portland Street.”

It looks like that was written in 2008.

Why was this entrance allowed to be reopened in 2008 or so, but they can’t reopen entrances today? ADA changed since then?

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mister March 2, 2016 - 3:48 pm

This happened. Since then, NYCT has stopped re-opening new entrances. The A/C line report explained this as well (See the last two paragraphs on that linked page).

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JJJJ March 2, 2016 - 4:51 pm

“The opinion also noted that “alterations” as minor as resurfacing a road trigger ADA accessibility requirements. In that case, municipalities have to install curb cuts at intersections. In comparison with reconstructing an elevator or staircase, the opinion notes, a road resurfacing is relatively minor.”

If resurfacing a road triggers ADA then the MTA triggers ADA on a weekly basis.

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Eric March 3, 2016 - 4:15 am

F**king ADA.

Nathanael March 3, 2016 - 10:47 pm

Get over it, bigot.

Every other city in the country is having NO PROBLEM complying. Even Philadelphia.

NYC has been uniquely bigoted against the handicapped.

Nathanael March 3, 2016 - 10:49 pm

SEPTA has now actually installed those elevators at the 15th Street station. And it’s a great improvement. SEPTA’s showing a decent, cooperative attitude now.

Contrast the MTA.

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