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53rd and 3rd avenue escalator long neglected

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53rd and 3rd avenue escalator long neglected

By Matthew Sweeney

am New York

May 1, 2008

 

38314819.jpg

RJ Mickelson

The escalator at the Southeast corner of the Lexington Ave/53rd St. Stop on the E, V,

and 6 lines has been out of service for over one year. Straphangers must use the

staircase to make their way to and from the subway.

 

A privately owned subway escalator below 53rd Street and Third Avenue has been broken for at least a year, according to straphangers and city records, yet it's difficult to find anyone who will claim responsibility for it.

 

"They don't maintain it," William McKeever, 75, said recently after struggling up the stairs near the escalator at 875 Third Ave. with his cane.

 

"That's a hell of a long walk for me," he said.

 

Over the decades, it's been a common practice for the city, NYC Transit and its parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to forge deals that would give valuable floor space to real estate developers in return for subway improvements.

 

In the case of the escalator at 875 Third Ave., a deal worth $3 million a year in rental income for the developer was forged more than 20 years ago. Today, after the property has changed hands several times over and the city and transit officials who struck the deal have moved on, the agreement seems forgotten, leaving no one accountable for maintaining it.

 

The city Department of Buildings issued violations in June 2006 and October 2007 for the broken escalator and ordered it fixed. But on a recent Sunday, even as a work crew put a fresh coat of paint along the walls alongside the escalator, no one was working on the escalator itself.

 

The violations were issued to East Gate Realty, the management company for the building, which did not return calls for comment.

 

The building, meanwhile, is owned by Miller Global Properties, a partnership of Global Holdings and the Denver-based Miller Properties Group.

 

And a sign at the bottom of the escalator lists the name and phone number of Schindler Elevators, a global company that could not say Tuesday whether it had a contract to maintain the escalator.

 

NYC Transit was not certain what the elevator's status was.

 

"It's been broken for years," said nearby resident Rosanne Miskow, 67.

 

She works as an event planner and when she can't find a cab, she lugs her supplies into the station. "It's like a $2 gym," Miskow said.

 

Across the street is another broken privately-owned subway escalator. The owners of 885 Third Avenue -- the Lipstick Building -- are responsible for the escalator, which has not been working for years.

 

The Lipstick Building was sold in July for $648 million to a reportedly complex partnership that includes the Israel-based investment companies Tao Tsuot and Financial Levers, the Marciano Investment Group, Metropolitan Real Estate Investments, and SL Green Realty.

 

Fixing the escalator "was a commitment by the owner once they realized they had a responsibility for it," said Frank Marino, a spokesman for Metropolitan. According to him, the escalator is ready, and all that remains is for transit officials to find and patch a water leak.

 

Charles Seaton, a transit spokesman, could not say when the escalator might return to service.

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