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Byford: Complete Clark Street Station Closure For 8 Months Preferred, But There Are Options

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These are the takeaways from this evening’s meeting with Transit Authority President Andy Byford (in photo at right, conversing with City Council Member Stephen Levin) at St. Francis College:

1. The TA’a preferred plan would be to close the Clark Street subway station, serving the 2 and 3 lines, completely while working on all three of the frequently malfunctioning elevators. This, Mr. Byford said, could be completed in eight months, with contractors incentivized to meet the schedule.

2. There are two possible options that would involve working on one elevator at a time, and thereby leave the station open at least some of the time. It isn’t possible to work on two and leave only one running, as this would violate the fire code and create the possibility that the one working elevator could stall en route and would make extracting the passengers from the stalled elevator more difficult and time consuming. One option would be to keep the station open at all times; this would take two years to complete. The other would be to have it open only during hours of peak usage, which are 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. This would take 22 months. Both of these options would add $6 million to the cost of the project.

3. Mr. Byford said, with great regret, that there is at present no practicable way to make Clark Street ADA compliant. The platform is too narrow to accommodate an elevator. An audience member asked about the possibility of a side platform to provide such accommodation. Mr. Byford said this couldn’t be included in the present plan, but was worth looking into in the future. Another audience member asked about the possibility of replacing the short stairways that connect the lower mezzanine, where the elevators land, with the platform. This could be beneficial for those with less serious mobility issues. Again, Mr. Byford said this could be considered, but not as part of the present project.

4. There was great concern expressed from the audience about the fate of the merchants whose stores line the arcades leading to and from the subway entrance. Mr. Byford said the arcades would remain accessible from the streets, and that prominent advertising would be displayed to let the public know these businesses were open. Since the stores pay rent to the owners of the St. George building, it was asked if the TA would consider subsidizing the businesses during any extended shutdown. Mr. Byford noted that this would add to the project’s cost, but didn’t rule it out.

5. Early in his presentation, Mr. Byford said it would not be necessary to provide shuttle bus service from Clark Street to other stations – Borough Hall on the 2, 3, 4, and 5, Court Street on the R, and High Street on the A and C – as all of these are a short, easily walkable distance from Clark Street. An audience member, noting that the elevator project is slated to begin during the winter of 2020-21, said even these walks could be challenging for many during winter weather. Mr. Byford said the Heights’ narrow streets and limited turning radius presented a challenge for standard city buses, but allowed that a service using smaller buses might be feasible. Again, this would add to cost.

In his opening remarks and throughout his presentation, Mr. Byford stressed his determination to get as much community input as possible before coming to a decision, which will be his and the TA Board’s, on which option to pursue. In furtherance of this, survey forms were distributed to those attending, asking us to rank the three options in order of preference. Mr. Byford asked that we make note, in the “Comments” section, if our ranking was dependent on a condition, such as preferring the complete shutdown option only if shuttle bus service is provided. These surveys will be passed out to commuters at Clark Street, and will be availble on line.

In addition to Council Member Levin, several other elected officials were present – Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, and State Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, who acted as emcee. All, including Council Member Levin, spoke briefly, all stressing the need for community engagement in the process. Representatives from the offices of Borough President Eric Adams and City Comptroller Scott Stringer were also present.

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