In recent weeks, we’ve been fielding a number of questions from readers about the long-delayed escalator replacement project inside the East Broadway subway station. In August of 2012, The Lo-Down reported that the narrow, creaky relic was being ripped out and replaced with a new, wider version. It was supposed to be a 10-month project, which seemed like an awfully long time to a lot of locals. As the completion date – June 2013 – passed, notices went up every month pushing the deadline ahead 30 days at a time. Commuters were puzzled and angry, since there was often no evidence that the firm hired to do the work, Oliveira Contracting, was on the job. One resident, Alex Zubatov, wrote in an email:
This being the heart of Chinatown, there are many elderly people from the Chinese community who use this station regularly, and because of the depth of the station, they have been forced to climb four full flights of steps to get to the surface. It does not take over a year to replace an escalator, but it does take that long when no one is working on it. This project has been utterly mismanaged, and the MTA has not been exercising any supervision over the contractors. I do not know whether these contractors are filling out some sort of time sheets for when they actually worked, but if such time sheets say they have been working diligently each day, they are clearly lies. Moreover, when completion dates are announced, those dates should actually mean something.
Earlier today, we asked an MTA spokesperson for an explanation. Here’s the response received a short time ago:
…during Super Storm Sandy in October 2012, several major subway lines were heavily damaged. NYCT committed all in-house resources and required track outages to repair the damaged lines and put them back in service as soon as possible. The escalator replacement project at East Broadway Station required track outages and support from in-house forces who were not available until the spring of 2013. Additionally during construction, Con-Edison revised their requirements for existing transformers and these Con-Edison mandated upgrades at East Broadway Station were completed in December 2013. Currently, the contractor is performing final testing of the escalator and we are making every effort to place the elevator back in service soon.
The Lower East Side is not alone. As the New York Times reported last October, the lingering impact of Hurricane Sandy is a citywide transportation issue:
(in the year since Sandy struck) thehas been forced to adapt in ways few could have predicted, setting off a procession of management changes, unexpected system failures, and, at times, fiscal uncertainty. The consequences, officials acknowledge, will be felt for years, most acutely in the form of persistent service disruptions that will dog riders across the system — in areas directly touched by the floods and in others where storm-related triage could delay scheduled work intended to keep the subways in a state of good repair.
The good news? When the new escalator opens, there will also be several other improvements at the East Broadway station, including new stairs, guard rails, exhaust fans, larger landings and new fire suppression equipment.
We specifically asked the MTA when the escalator project will realistically be completed. In spite of the latest notices predicting a January 31 opening, the spokesperson did not make any promises. As you can see, the MTA simply stated, that the agency is “making every effort to place the elevator back in service soon.”
Anyone placing any bets?
UPDATED 1/7/2014: Today we heard from the office of State Sen. Daniel Squadron, which has been in contact with the MTA about the East Broadway escalator on numerous occasions beginning in the fall of 2012. Squadron, who has taken a special interest in MTA-related issues, has been told the project will be completed by the end of this month, after final testing is conducted. His office followed up with the MTA yesterday afternoon. Having said that, the agency has missed numerous deadlines. In October of 2012, Squadron sent a letter to MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, urging a quicker timetable for the rehab project.