This weekend, on two separate occasions, I had the opportunity to see first-hand the state of the subway system. On Saturday evening, I took the N train from Pacific St. to Coney Island, and on Sunday, I used the Smith/9th Sts. subway stop coming to and going from Red Hook. Neither of these experiences presented much hope for the state of stations in disrepair.
The Smith/9th Sts. station has gotten a lot of press of late. Originally, the MTA had planned a full station overhaul as part of the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation project. But when parts of the project were scaled back, the station rehab plans were placed in limbo. The station itself is a mess. The paint is beyond peeling; there are holes in the staircase; and it’s generally one of the ugliest and most run-down stations in the system. With views of Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bay of New York, it should be a crown jewel.
Meanwhile, on that N ride through Brooklyn, the Sea Beach line journeys through Gravesend and Bensonhurst en route to the modern marvel at Stillwell Ave. on Coney Island. As the N journeys through a trench in Brooklyn, decrepit station after decrepit station pass by. Walls are damaged by leaking pipes and dirty water. Paint is gone. Platforms are cracked. The train travels past a physically unsafe and visually unpleasant set of station.
These are just two examples of a widespread problem found in our subway system. The stations are in a state of disrepair, and according to New York City Transit President Howard Roberts, these conditions may be here to stay. Angela Montefinise and Kathianne Boniello had the story in The Post recently:
The head of New York City Transit acknowledges that less than a quarter of the Big Apple’s subway stations are in acceptable condition – and says the agency is an “unbelievably long distance” from bringing the rest up to par, even with higher fares.
“There’s not anything out there that anybody is very proud of,” NYC Transit President Howard Roberts Jr. told The Post in a wide-ranging interview about the fundamental problems plaguing the city’s 468 subway stations as the agency slashes its budget and talks about raising fares twice more in the coming three years…
Roberts’ response: It’s extremely bad, and it isn’t going to get better any time soon. Roberts said the number of stations in good condition could be “as low as 100,” far fewer than his agency’s capital plan suggests.
The issue, of course, is what it always is: The MTA doesn’t have the funds to do more than maintain the status quo. “We’re not doing as many rehabs, and we have very limited capacity to maintain and clean the stations we do have,” Roberts said to The Post. “We really do not have the funding to do a first-class job.”
According to the NYCT chief, the transit agency would have to employ over 800 more station cleaners and many more maintenance workers than it currently does. So as you look around at your surroundings each morning and wonder when those streaks of grimy water and patches of missing tiles are going to go away, just know that the answer is that they aren’t any time soon. As long as we have politicians who are reluctant to think out of the box in order to fund transit, our system will continue to suffer. And that status quo will just become more and more expensive to maintain.
We’re a long way from seeing our stations in a state of good repair, and that’s a damn shame.