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Broken Union Square escalator leaves riders frustrated


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Broken Union Square escalator leaves riders frustrated

By Matthew Sweeney


April 24, 2008



Dennis W. Ho

The escalator at Union Square Subway Station at

the corner of East 14th Street and Union Square

West has been out-of-service for over a year.

The responsibility for the escalator is shared

between the MTA and the owners of the

commercial building Zackendorf Towers.

MTA Commuters have had to use the adjacent

staircases to make their to and from the subway.[/float]Straphangers who use the Union Square station have almost grown accustomed to the yellow "Caution" barriers blocking the two broken down escalators at the southeast entrance. Most have a vague recollection that the escalators were running sometime last summer.


"It's a real hardship for people," said Peter Hagan, 61, after taking the stairs one at a time. "I can get around but someone in a wheelchair or someone with a stroller, there's no consideration for them."


An irate straphanger raised the escalators to NYC Transit President Howard Roberts at a recent meeting. The rider said the escalators hadn't worked in months, and Roberts, in sympathy, replied, "I think 'years' would be a better description on those escalators."


"We have other examples around the system," he added.


It's common practice to allow real estate developers to build bigger than they would normally be permitted in return for constructing and maintaining an elevator, escalator or other amenity to a nearby subway station, transit officials said.


But with the Union Square escalators, the long period of disrepair would suggest that not all such agreements are honored, leaving straphangers frustrated and inconvenienced.


Developer William Zeckendorf, Jr. who built the 640-unit Zeckendorf Towers at One Irving Place above the Union Square station installed the escalators in the mid-1980s. It was part of a trade off with the city, which was eager to develop the increasingly blighted area around the park.


Zeckendorf was granted a large increase in the floor area of his building on the southeast corner of Union Square in return for expanding the station mezzanine, installing and maintaining escalators on 14th Street, and constructing a new exit on 15th Street.


Transit and Zeckendorf officials would not say exactly how long the escalators have been shut down, but riders say it has been at least eight months since they last worked.


"We have been informed that it is their intention to resolve the escalator situation and that due to the current condition, it is their intention to have the escalators replaced," Paul Fleuranges, a transit spokesman, said in a statement.


A woman who identified herself only as Ann Marie, fielded a call to Zeckendorf's management company and said, "The Buildings Department shut them down and deemed them unsafe. We're replacing them." She said there was no schedule for the replacement escalators yet.


Buildings inspectors have issued two violations for the escalators and ordered them repaired and returned to service by June.


Unlike when the escalators were first installed some 20 years ago, Union Square today has become a retail destination and renewed public square. Today, patients struggle up the stairs to make appointments at two nearby hospitals, mothers carry strollers up the stairs, and shoppers lug their bags down into the subway.


With the help of a cane, Vincent Ramos, 49, was climbing up the stairs next to the broken escalator yesterday. There are two steel rods in his leg and he's scheduled to get a hip replacement soon. "It's an inconvenience for me," he said.


There is an elevator at the bottom of the escalators but many riders said they avoid it because it reeks of urine.


"It's a shame," said Allison Hadaway, 44, a Con Ed employee from New Jersey who works nearby. "They're making money from it. It's a small convenience to the community. It's the least they can do."

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Its nice how they bring it to attention once the Manhattan stations start dying :D. The (MTA) needs to have a better plan with maintaining the escalators and elevators. They should keep in mind millions of people go on these escalators/elevators daily.

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Yea that always sucks. If you have ever been to the Exchange Place PATH station just imagine those esclators being broken. I literally got dizzy the first time I was there and stared down them from the top. That would be one hell of a fall. Actually, you could probably kill yourself there if you really wanted to...

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