big letdowns

Steep Descent For Subways’ Worst Escalator and Elevator

A privately maintained escalator at the Lexington Avenue-53rd Street station had the worst performance record in early 2019.
A privately maintained escalator at the Lexington Avenue-53rd Street station had the worst performance record in early 2019. Photo: Jose Martinez /THE CITY

An escalator leading to the E and M train platform at the Lexington Avenue-53rd Street subway station went down in January, and it’s unlikely to give any riders a lift until next month.

“It’s terrible, terrible, terrible,” said Naeem Smith, 42, who commutes in and out of the Midtown Manhattan station daily. “I’ve actually called the MTA to complain about this, and they tell me to take it up with the landlord.”

That’s because the worst-performing escalator in the subway system – out of service 86% the time since January – is owned and maintained by a private operator. The same can be said for the worst-performing elevator in the system, a lift at the Aqueduct Racetrack A train stop that was out 66.5% percent of the time in the first three months of the year.

The escalator is benearth the towering “Lipstick Building” in the system’s ninth-busiest subway station, one passed through by more than 66,000 riders every weekday.

It’s among 42 subway escalators maintained by private developers that own towering skyscrapers, luxury apartments and shopping malls connected to subway stations.

A representative for the MTA made no excuses for the spotty service.

“Private developers should be maintaining subway elevators and escalators to the highest possible standards, but too often they fail to live up to their end of the bargain,” said spokesperson Shams Tarek. “The new leadership at New York City Transit and the MTA are working to ensure that we have the tools needed to improve performance, in addition to strengthening our contracts to allow us to hold private develops accountable in a more effective way.”

A spokesperson for building’s owner said Tuesday the responsibility for the escalator rests with a company identified in MTA documents as 885 Third Ave. Holding LLC. A company representative was not immediately reachable for comment.

The MTA maintains 232 subway escalators, whose availability over the first quarter of 2019 dipped to 90.3% of the time, down from 93.7% in the same period a year earlier. The MTA pinned the slide on increased safety checks and repairs that took several escalators out of service for long periods of time.

“Riders don’t care who owns or maintains the escalators,” said Colin Wright of TransitCenter, an advocacy group. “They just want them to work and they deserve for them to work.”

In many cases, Wright said, the private companies are tripped up by having to secure custom parts.

“Sourcing custom parts can be expensive and time-consuming,” he said. “Using ‘off the shelf’ equipment where possible would help the MTA and private owners to stock spare parts and hasten repairs.”

Elevators Go Down

A parts problem was to blame for problems at the Aqueduct Racetrack stop on the A train — whose privately maintained elevator was available just 33.5% of the time in the first three months of 2019 because of broken glass.

“That’s not a good number,” said Cynthia Lewis of Queens, a regular at the Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct. “They should work harder to make sure it works all the time.”

“They don’t even fix the slot machines,” said another woman at the subway station, who asked to be identified only as Leslie. “Why should they fix their elevator?”

https://images.thecity.nyc/v1/imgs/9b/07/bc5b45abd69524a7759e507982cc4e0eb8b0-052019-aqueduct-track-elevator-1.jpg
The privately maintained elevator at the Aqueduct Racetrack station was down more than 65% of the time over the first quarter of 2019. Photo: Jose Martinez /THE CITY

But global casino king Genting — which operates Resorts World Casino New York City and maintains the elevator — had to order custom-made glass before the elevator could resume transporting riders between the platform and a parking lot. The company says MTA specifications are to blame.

“Accessibility to our facility is a key priority and we monitor this elevator closely to ensure it is providing the service to those who need it,” a spokesperson for Resorts World Casino told THE CITY. “As soon as the MTA alerts us to an issue, we immediately dispatch a maintenance crew, which helps to keep it in service.”

There are 53 privately maintained elevators in the subway system, and 255 that belong to the MTA. Overall elevator availability ticked up to 96.7% in the first three months of the year, up from 96.1% in 2018.

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