Colorful graffiti have taken over parapet walls of the above-ground stations from 8th Avenue to 86th Street in Brooklyn on the Coney Island-bound N Line. Peeling paint and layers of green mold compete for attention. Rain falls through cracked ceilings onto commuters’ heads at the Kings Highway station, located seven stops past 8th Avenue station in southwest Brooklyn.
Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann called the conditions at the stations “deplorable.”
“Some of the staircases are so eroded that they have to be repaired just to make them safe so they won’t collapse,” Beckmann said. “Walls are crumbling.”
Beckmann said community members have complained about the stations’ conditions for years. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has taken notice. It has allocated $500 million for renovations at nine stations located in Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Coney Island; from 8th Avenue to 86th Street. The renovations began in April, and will continue through the winter of 2018. An average of 52,747 weekday commuters will be affected daily, according to 2014 statistics, provided by MTA.
At a Community Board 10 meeting on Thursday, Sep. 3, Project Manager Tarek Hatab said renovation work, such as tree removal, began in April. The community has experienced weekend closures. Shuttle buses replace closed subway routes.
The biggest footprint will be felt by commuters in January 2016 when seven of the nine stations on the northbound side of the N Line will be shutdown for 14 months. Bay Parkway and 86th Street will be the two stations that remain open.
Melissa Farley, assistant director of government and community relations for MTA New York City Transit, said providing shuttle bus services at closed stations is too expensive. Farley said commuters will have to adjust their commute using the F and D trains or use southbound N trains to ride back to closed stations.
“We know it is an inconvenience but we have found that once people get used to the change, things kind of work out,” she said. “Some people don’t mind because actually some of them have a quicker ride depending on which station they are going to.”
Bensonhurst resident Yan Yan said she dreads MTA’s bypass plans.
“It is very inconvenient, for example, during the winter times, with snow on the ground,” Yan said.
Hatab said there is no alternative.
“The condition of the existing structure is such that we can’t just do parts and pieces and work around active service. The thought was the only way to do this is essentially to bite the bullet.”
Completion of the northbound stations will be followed by 14 additional months of closures on the southbound side. Hatab said the project will be completed in 2018.
Campaign Coordinator Cate Contino of Straphangers, a campaign founded by the New York Public Interest Group to address New York transit issues, said MTA and community leaders should ensure N train riders’ commutes are as hassle-free as possible during the renovations.
“Having survived the 14 months it took to rebuild the Montague Street Tunnel as an R train rider, I empathize deeply with what N train riders in southwest Brooklyn are facing,” Contino said. “No matter how necessary, large scale rebuilding projects like this one are disruptive.”
Some residents recognize that things will get worse before it gets better.
“The stations are disgusting,” Bensonhurst resident Aly Holguin said. “The renovations are worth it.”
New Utrecht resident Antonio Petito said closures have meant having to overshoot stops and ride the train back to make it home. But he won’t complain.
“I know it is not forever,” he said.
Edgar Rodriguez, employee at J&V Pizzeria near the 20th Avenue station, is not as understanding.
“When they shut the line, there are no customers walking on the sidewalk,” Rodriguez said. “They take their business somewhere else.”
Sunny Tabusan of Shaheen Deli and Grocery on Fort Hamilton Parkway is experiencing the opposite.
“People take the shuttle bus, so it is crowded here. It is beneficial because people come in.”
Ted General from Bay Ridge Historical Society said the stations were constructed in 1914, so age has played a role in its severe deterioration. Hatab said the MTA plans to restore some of the station’s more than 100-year-old fixtures.
“It is always good when you can protect the legacy of a major infrastructure. And at the same time run a modern, fast train service. It is a nice parallel,” General said.
The station makeover will include a coat of graffiti-resistant paint. The stations will also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Beckmann said MTA plans to construct a ramp at the 8th Avenue station and elevators will be installed in the New Utrecht Avenue station.