When last we checked in on the MTA’s escalator problem in May, a few local New York papers had documented rampant elevator outages throughout the subway system, and The New York Times had issued a stunning indictment of the MTA’s escalators and elevators. The Straphangers Campaign jumped on the bandwagon, urging New York City Transit to audit their escalators.
While the MTA shouldered much of the blame for the escalator outages, as the news came out, reporters discovered that a lot of the fault fell on the supposed operators of these escalators: the owners of the buildings. You see, when the MTA and private developers get together on real estate deals above subway stations, the MTA stipulates that the management companies are responsible for maintaining the subway entrances and the methods of egress. That includes escalators as stations such as, oh, Union Square.
That Union Square escalators — next to the Food Emporium on 14th St. — were the proverbial eye of this perfect storm. The escalators have long been out of service, and the people in charge of Zeckendorf Towers are supposed to be maintaining it. But as Curbed told us in April, the Buildings Department shut down the escalators last summer, and the Zeckendorfs have opted to do nothing about it. Until today.
This afternoon, Curbed posted the below photo:
That’s right; the Zeckendorfs are doing something. They’re taking what should be a perfectly functional escalator or at the very least a staircase and turning it into an entombed nothing all because they don’t want to invest the money to fix it. At the very least, they could turn the escalators, as one Curbed commenter suggests, back into a staircase. Then, straphangers wouldn’t be faced with a giant slide.
As far as I know, the MTA could probably file a breach of contract complaint. The management company is, after all, supposed to maintain and not close their escalators. Otherwise, we’d have a regular, full-sized entrance at the one of the subway system’s most popular stations. But then again, that would be a proactive solution to something plaguing the system.
And in a way, isn’t this symptomatic of the overarching problems plaguing the MTA? When faced with a problem in which even the law is on their side, the MTA hasn’t responded as they should. When these escalators when out of service, the MTA should have used their leverage to force the Zeckendorf Towers management to fix it. Instead, these escalators are just permanently out of service, another sign of an agency — this one private — taking the MTA for a ride.