BY JOE MARVILLI
A plan to renovate the entrances to the Flushing-Main Street Long Island Rail Road station has been approved.
On Jan. 29, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board unanimously voted in favor of an effort by the MTA and LIRR to acquire the property at 40-36 Main St. using the New York Eminent Domain Procedure Law, in order to construct elevators and staircases to the station platform, making the stop handicap accessible.
The MTA said the elevator and stairway would be a safer, more accessible entry point for commuters and would update the station to come into alignment with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The current entrance is an alley off of 40th Road and the nearest ADA accessible stop is Broadway Station, located two miles away.
The rehabilitation of the Flushing-Main Street station on the Port Washington branch will cost around $8.5 million, an amount that was paid for in the MTA’s 2005-2009 Capital Program. Improvements that will be added include the construction of two new elevators, platform railings, lighting and warning stripes to support ADA compliance and improved safety. The existing platform lighting fixtures and platform railings were installed in 1987 and are out of date with the code.
The property is directly north of the LIRR bridge overpass structure. At the moment, it is occupied by Ou Jiang City Supermarket. In order to install and maintain a new elevator for the Manhattan-bound train platform, the existing building will be demolished. The MTA Real Estate Dept. is working to reach an agreement with the supermarket, with discussions still in progress.
While there was an AA Plaza food vendor where the eastbound elevator would go, it had been seized late last year by the MTA through eminent domain, according to spokesman Salvatore Arena.
This project came together when unallocated funds from the LaGuardia Airport Access project were re-allocated to MTA agencies. As a result, the LIRR got an additional $16 million for its 2005-2009 Capital Program.
Design work is underway, with a tentative construction start date in 2015, if the land acquisition is completed. Arena said that the work should not affect commuters. If it does interfere at any point, the LIRR would let customers know far ahead of time.
“If the project can be carried out as planned, access to the station will be significantly improved and the elevators will make Flushing Main Street handicapped accessible for the first time,” he said.
On Oct. 28, 2013, the MTA had a public hearing about the project. Both Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and a representative for U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) expressed their support for the project, with Koo adding that he would like the supermarket owner to be well-compensated.
“I am glad to see that the renovation project has finally been approved by the MTA,” Koo said.
Meng said that she had been pushing for the upgrades since she was in the State Assembly.
“I cannot be happier to see plans for the upgrades finally moving forward,” she said. “The Flushing station is in need of critical renovations in order to serve the growing the needs of Flushing residents.”
Many community and civic leaders have come out in support of the project, including former Comptroller John Liu, former Borough President Claire Shulman and the Flushing Business Improvement District.
“I honestly think the Long Island Rail Road is an eyesore in the heart of downtown Flushing. It’s about time,” the BID’s executive director, Dian Yu, said. “It’s definitely a good start that they are looking to start this new project. I think it’s good for our reputation as well.”
Community Board 7 also said it was happy the project was moving forward.
“Wonderful…this is long overdue,” district manager Marilyn Bitterman said.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.