Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights straphangers vote for longer Clark Street station fix

October 31, 2019 Mary Frost
Clark Street subway station in Brooklyn Heights.Eagle photo by Mary Frost

The results of the survey about the best way to replace the three decrepit elevators at the Clark Street subway station in Brooklyn Heights are in — but the results raise some questions.

Overall, 62 percent of the 687 people who completed the survey said they want the MTA to replace one elevator at a time over the course of roughly two years. Only 38 percent want the MTA to close the whole station for eight months in order to replace all three elevators at once.

While this result appears to be definitive, it runs contrary to the mood of the crowd who attended a town hall meeting in September and heard New York City Transit Authority President Andy Byford lay out all the options.

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The subway station that serves the 2 and 3 lines is one of the deepest underground in the city’s subway system, and the elevators are so old and have broken down so many times they ought to be in the Transit Museum, Byford told the crowd at the September meeting. A 10-story flight of stairs at Clark Street station is used only in emergencies.

After Byford discussed the ins and outs associated with three possibilities (one which would take eight months, one taking 22 months and one taking 24 months), the majority of the crowd in attendance (79 percent) favored the eight-month, full-closure approach.

Those who didn’t hear Byford speak, however, went the other way, leading officials to question what was behind the difference.

Most of the surveys were completed by people who did not attend the forum. Of the 687 completed surveys, only 96 were filled out at the forum; 125 were filled out at the Clark Street subway station, and 466 filled out the survey online.

Of those who completed the survey at the Clark Street subway station, only 24 percent went for the eight-month, full-closure option, as did 33 percent of the 466 people who completed the survey online.

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The September forum was arranged by officials including Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, State Sen. Brian Kavanagh, Councilmember Stephen Levin, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Borough President Eric Adams.

In a statement on Wednesday, these officials noted the difference in opinion between those who attended the meeting and those who didn’t.

“This may indicate that the presentation and discussion at the forum had a significant impact on the viewpoint of those present, or it may indicate that those who attended the forum had an opinion different from that of other respondents before the forum for whatever reason,” the officials said.

The officials reported that comments written by survey takers included a desire for shuttle buses during periods when subway service is unavailable at the station; special considerations and financial assistance for local businesses and institutions impacted by the project; accommodations for older transit customers and people with disabilities; and inclusion of improvements to the stairs or addition of escalators to the station.

One limitation to the survey was the fact that “There was no method executed to ensure that respondents only completed the survey one time,” officials said in the report.

Several of the businesses operating out of the arcade at the St. George Tower, at the corner of Henry and Clark streets, have said a prolonged closure would force them out of business.

Back in May, Brooklyn Heights Association sent a “Call to Action” to its members, asking them to demand that the Clark Street subway station remain open while the station’s elevators were being replaced.

“We recognize that there will be adverse effects on the neighborhood no matter which option is chosen, but we also recognize the imperative to replace the elevators and do it soon,” Lara Birnback, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday.

“We appreciate the effort both NYCT and our electeds have gone to in order to solicit public opinion — and now we ask that NYCT take seriously what community members are saying regarding their preferences and be transparent about its decision-making going forward.”

The three options

Option one, the eight-month option, would shut down the station and bypass trains during that period. This would be the least expensive option with the shortest duration, and shuttles would be considered.

Option two is to work on one elevator at a time over the course of 24 months, which would allow the station to remain open. Byford described several drawbacks that come with this option at the September meeting.

The third option is to work on one elevator at a time over a 22-month period, but only run the two operating elevators during peak times on weekdays. The station would remain open, but this option also has a few drawbacks.

The three options. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Options two and three would each cost $6 million more than the first option.

While his own preference is to “get in, get it done and get out,” Byford said the agency would take survey results into consideration.

“My philosophy is to be customer-led in everything,” Byford said.

Full survey results here.


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