A long, long time ago in May of 2008, I wrote about the perennially out-of-service escalators at Union Square. These entombed egress options were to be maintained by the managers of the Zeckendorf Towers but have sat dormant for months.
This year, as Transit wrapped up installation of the green motion-sensitive escalators at Union Square, many of them stopped working, and the authority encountered some difficulty in getting these formerly moving staircases fixed. It has, in other words, been a rough 15 months for the MTA and its escalators.
But no more! According to a report in today’s amNew York, the various broken escalators are heading down the road to repair. Heather Haddon writes:
Zeckendorf Towers, a condo owner, built the escalators at the southeast corner of Union Square station. The stairways have been out for years, a source of constant frustration for less able-bodied riders. “This is criminal,” said Aladin Haidalgo, 59, a Brooklyn rider struggling to walk up the subway stairs with a cane Monday. “It’s a major impediment.”
Zeckendorf tried to sock NYC Transit with the bill for the escalators, but the company recently agreed to pony up for the millions of dollar in repairs, transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges said. Fleuranges could not say when the escalators will be fixed, as it’s up to the owner. A spokesman for Zeckendorf declined comment.
Meanwhile, the MTA has made strides in taking care of its own equipment. After months of outages, all 12 escalators now run at Herald Square, the system’s third busiest station. The MTA recently spent $36 million to overhaul the escalators, but the contractor did not install them properly. The escalators broke a total of 150 times during the first part of this year, with three of the stairways not running at all, according to MTA figures.
Haddon notes the sea change in agency approach. In the past, the MTA has not pursued private developers who have been negligent in maintaining these escalators. With funds tight and more pressure on the authority to be more accountable for the state of the system, Transit has changed its tune. “It’s a philosophical change,” Ellyn Shannon of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA said to amNew York. “Access to the system is now important to them whether they own the escalator or not.”
Meanwhile, these management companies and escalator contractors must fulfill their legal obligations, and the MTA should not allow them to avoid these repairs. It’s been a long time coming, and somewhere, Mitch Hedberg is smiling. After all, as he once said, “An escalator is never temporarily out order; it’s temporarily stairs.”