BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Western Queens’ elected officials are calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to paint over the elevated 7 train subway tracks, which they say have not been upgraded in more than 35 years.
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said that the stations between 103rd Street-Corona Plaza/Roosevelt Avenue and 52 Street/Roosevelt Avenue pose a threat to pedestrians walking underneath the tracks, children in strollers and food vendors.
“For more than seven years, I’ve been working with the MTA to try and get this situated,” Dromm said. “This can be detrimental to their [children’s] health and their ability to learn.”
Dromm said that while other elevated trains in the city have been painted over, this area of Queens has not been upgraded.
But a spokesman for the MTA told the Queens Tribune that it had not been 35 years since the areas over the elevated 7 train tracks had been painted. He added that the agency undertakes annual joint inspections with the city Environmental Protection and Parks departments. The inspections include the disposal of paint chips in accordance with city environmental regulations.
“The safety of all our customers and the surrounding community is a top priority,” the spokesman said. “The MTA has an aggressive repainting program across the entire system that includes proactively scraping and repainting our structures. Nearly all of the Flushing line has been repainted in recent years and the remaining 3.1-mile stretch will be done as part of the current capital program.”
An environmental consultant for New York City Transit has also assessed various sections and tested air quality along the 7 line, the MTA spokesman said. Tests found that air- quality levels were within National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
However, according to a study by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the lead in the paint is not considered safe.
In an effort to put pressure on the MTA, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Elmhurst) and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) introduced legislation that would direct the MTA to conduct a study with the Department of Environmental Protection and city Health Department to determine the degree to which the MTA complies with the federal Clean Air Act.
“As we just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 7 train, what better present than repainting the trestles, aboveground stations, and making sure dangerous lead-paint chips no longer fall onto the streets and sidewalks?” Peralta said. “This is the subway line that cuts through several hard-working neighborhoods like Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Woodside.”
Under the proposed bill, the MTA would not only have to immediately resolve the lead paint chipping problem, but would also have to submit a written report and present its findings to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the state Senate and Assembly.
“We need to protect everyone from dangerous lead-paint chips falling onto the streets—this is why it is vital we evaluate lead-paint levels and work to remove the problem from the subway’s infrastructure,” Peralta said.
However, Dromm said he doesn’t believe that Peralta’s legislation is the most effective means of handling the problem.
“A study creates analysis paralysis and it would take a year to get legislation passed and another year for a study,” Dromm said.
“We’re trying to create pressure from the community.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org