Gounardes hears from riders about subway mess

Originally published in Brooklyn Reporter on July 29, 2019.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes hands one of his subway surveys to a rider at the New Utrecht Avenue/62nd Street D/N train station. Photo by: Despina Costalas

Politicians often visit subway stations during campaign season to greet riders, shake hands and ask for votes. But State Sen. Andrew Gounardes had a different reason for spending Tuesday morning at the New Utrecht Avenue/62nd Street station.

Gounardes, a Democrat representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and several other Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, arrived at 7:30 a.m. on July 23 and stood just inside the entrance of the station looking for feedback from riders on subway service.

The city’s transit system has been plagued in recent years by frequent service disruptions, computer glitches, switching problems, delayed trains, trains being detoured or going out of service, flooded platforms in rainstorms and other problems.

Gounardes chatted with riders and handed out ridership surveys that straphangers rushing to catch the train could fill out and return to his office. The idea behind the survey is to pinpoint problems and elicit ideas for the city’s deteriorating transit system, according to Gounardes’ office. 

The New Utrecht Avenue/62nd Street station services both the D and N subway lines.

“I had a great morning at the 62nd Street and New Utrecht Avenue Station, connecting with residents on their morning commutes. We distributed dozens of transit surveys, contributing to the hundreds already collected by my office. As our mass transit system has been strained in recent weeks with signal malfunctions and infrastructure failures, it is especially important to me to be accessible and available to riders,” Gounardes said in a statement following his visit.

The Home Reporter visited the same station two mornings later and talked to straphangers.

One rider, Lillian Wei, said she was off from work Monday and Tuesday and didn’t get to see Gounardes. “But if you tell me he was here, that’s good,” she said as she waited for a Manhattan-bound D train. “I hope the politicians do something. The trains are really bad, especially the R train. I have to switch to the R and I hate it.”

At least one part of the commute has become easier for riders.

The MTA has installed four elevators at the multi-level New Utrecht Avenue/62nd Street station to ease the way for riders transferring between the D and N lines.

New York City Transit President Andy Byford came to the station last week to unveil the new elevators.

Gounardes, who lauded the new elevators, said he has introduced legislation to mandate that all subway stations be made accessible for people with disabilities.

In addition to installing elevators, the MTA also renovated the platforms on the N train portion of the station, rehabilitated the station entrances and turnstile areas, built new stairways and handrails, installed brighter lighting and gave the station a fresh coat of paint.

The New Utrecht Avenue/62nd Street station first opened in 1915.

Meanwhile, Gounardes said subway riders in his Senate district haven’t seen the last of him. He plans to visit other subway stations. “I will be out on many future mornings at subway stops to hear directly from riders,” he said.