Riders Caught Unawares by UWS Shuttering of B, C Stations

A sign in the 72nd St. station warns riders that the 110th St. station is closed, but makes no mention that service will be curtailed for months at this station beginning in May. | Photo by Sydney Pereira

BY SYDNEY PEREIRAFour Upper West Side subway stations are getting a makeover this summer — but for some, the changes hardly seem substantial and were wholly unanticipated, and the lengthy station closures could cause a bump in train crowds along the 1, 2, and 3 lines.

Four stations along the B and C lines will be entirely shut down as part of the “Enhanced Station Initiative” renovations at the 72nd St., 86th St., 110th St., and 163rd St. stations. The Cathedral Parkway-110th St. station closed on Apr. 9, and the 163rd St.-Amsterdam Ave. station shuttered a few weeks prior.

Many riders at the 72nd St. station had no clue that they are next.

“I had no idea,” said William Cohen, 76, an architect who lives off the 125th St. stop. He takes the B and C trains, but luckily for him, most of his day-to-day activities involve express stops not affected by renovations. Upon hearing the news that the 72nd St. station would be closing come May 7, he said it’s “disconcerting” the stations will be shut down for so much time without notice.

Though the MTA announced the closures last year, many riders did not know their stations would be closing — often citing unclear signage in the stations.

The 72nd St. station will close May 7, and the 86th St. station will close Jun. 4. Both are expected to re-open in October. The stations at 110th and 163rd will be closed until September. 

The four stations are getting major upgrades during the shutdowns, including more countdown clocks, Wi-Fi, USB ports, and better lighting. Despite the lengthy disruptions, the renovations will not include elevator installations at any stations, but accessibility for people with visual disabilities will be improved with the application of yellow tactile strips at the edge of the platform. The lengthy station closures are a part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s so-called “top to bottom approach,” renovating stations quicker over a full-shutdown period, rather than stretching work out over nights and weekends.

But nearly one year after the renovations were first announced, critics of the plan are saying that the renovations aren’t enough.

Councilmember Mark Levine, with Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell to the left in the picture, at an Apr. 9 demonstration outside the shuttered Cathedral Parkway- 110th St. station, protesting the lack of any disability access improvements during the B and C line renovations. | Courtesy of Councilmember Mark Levine’s Office

Upper West Side City Councilmember Mark Levine recently launched a petition (at marklevine.nyc/bc_shutdown_petition) calling on the MTA to provide monthly status updates on the renovations to community boards, add temporary shuttle buses along the affected subway routes, increase bus service along the M10 Central Park West route, and develop a strategy for reaching full rider accessibility at the stations. The petition has received hundreds of signatures, and the day the 110th St. station was closed he rallied alongside transit and disability advocates, State Senator Brian Benjamin, and Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell.

“Full station renovation, if you’re lucky, happens once a generation,” Levine said.

The six or so month shutdowns will improve the stations, no doubt, but Levine questioned why they would last that many months with no elevator installations. He added that there are entrances into these stations that have long been sealed, and there is no clear plan as to whether those entrances will be re-opened after the renovation.

Photos by Sydney Pereira
The 72nd St. B & C station on Central Park West, which will close for at least five months for renovations, beginning on May 9. | Photo by Sydney Pereira

“It’s another missed opportunity to re-open those entrances,” he said. “We’re really dismayed that the renovation plan does nothing to improve service or accessibility.”

Much of the renovations, he said, focus on station aesthetics.

The MTA is expected to increase M10 bus service to make up for the B/ C line curtailment, but the agency did not respond to Manhattan Express’ request for clarity on how much the service would be increased. The Transportation Committee of Community Board 7 is also requesting shuttle service between shuttered stations and that the MTA monitor the 1, 2, and 3 lines regarding the potential need for increased service.

One rider, Meg Lupardo, 70, who lives off the 72nd St. station, mostly takes the C train. Lupardo, who works as a patient actor for medical school students, has assignments at various locations along the B and C lines. She said she’ll likely end up walking the extra few blocks over to the 1, 2, and 3 lines, though she expects those trains to be packed.

“If it’s too crowded, I won’t be able to get the train,” she said, but added, “We’re lucky we have the 1, 2, 3.”

Most CB 7 members support the renovations because of the expected improvements they will bring, according to Andrew Albert, the co-chair of the board’s Transportation Committee. Albert said the committee was able to secure agreement from the MTA to make three-legged transfer cards available, so riders can request a free pass if they have to transfer twice as a result of the renovations.

“Of course, we wish every station would be accessible,” Albert said. But he added that “this is not the end of the line for accessibility if it doesn’t go in now.”

Edith Prentiss, the president of Disabled in Action, isn’t so sure about that. Prentiss, who rallied alongside Levine on Apr. 9, recognizes the difficulties of installing elevators at every station from an architectural and space standpoint. But the lack of any elevator installation plans whatsoever is unsettling, considering how few and far between renovations occur.

She warned it could be another 50 to 75 years before the MTA gets back around to these Upper West Side stops. By not building any elevators this time, “you’re really condemning generations to this lack of accessibility,” Prentiss said.

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