Local elected officials gathered with community activists today outside the East Broadway subway station to tell the MTA — “enough is enough.” In recent months, residents have become increasingly frustrated as the MTA has repeatedly failed to reopen the escalator at the station, which serves 13,000 commuters daily. The old escalator went offline in the summer of 2012 and was scheduled to reopen in June of last year. For the past several weeks, the MTA’s web site predicted that it would be operational by today, but yesterday the opening date was pushed back another 30 days.
This morning’s rally was organized by State Sen. Daniel Squadron, whose office had been told repeatedly by the MTA that the escalator would start running by the end of this month. He was joined by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, City Council member Margaret Chin, representatives from Community Board 3, staff from Henry Street Settlement and LES tenant leaders.
Standing alongside the F train entrance near the Wing Shoon Chinese restaurant, Squadron said, “it doesn’t make any sense to give elected officials in the community deadlines again and again and miss them… It is time for the MTA to prioritize this challenge and get this escalator fixed – not next month, not in three weeks but immediately.” Speaker Silver added, “it has been out of service for far too long.” Noting that there are a large number of senior citizens in the immediate area, Silver said, “There is no reason why the MTA would not have fixed it a long time ago. This community suffers enough from a lack of transit services… Fix it now, MTA. We need it fixed now.”
After receiving emails about the repeated delays, The Lo-Down contacted the MTA earlier this month for an explanation. A spokesperson said Hurricane Sandy had pushed back the timetable for many projects, including the East Broadway upgrade. In a response received January 6, that spokesperson, Kevin Ortiz, said the contractor was conducting “final testing.”
When we contacted Ortiz this morning, he explained that there have been complications. “During the testing of the escalator,” Ortiz said, “an issue with the inverter was uncovered. An inverter is a piece of equipment that varies the speed of the escalator. Both the contractor and the inverter manufacturer are working to resolve the issue. Once the issue is resolved, final testing of the escalator will be performed and the escalator will be placed in service.”
Squadron vowed to return to the Lower East Side every month until the escalator is operational. The MTA’s latest completion date is February 28. The issue may be taking on a higher profile. Today, Channel 4, 1010 WINS and NY1 were all on the scene to hear what the elected officials had to say.