BED-STUY — MTA Long Island Railroad (LIRR) President Phillip Eng invited local officials and members of the community to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly modernized Nostrand Avenue LIRR Station, which opened this morning.
The two-track elevated station, located on Nostrand and Atlantic Avenues in Bed-Stuy, has been rebuilt with features that, according to LIRR, improve usability and accessibility for commuters, and to be exact, its 1,217 weekday riders. Construction began in June 2017 and cost $28.1 million.
New features include two new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible elevators — one each on the eastbound and westbound side. There are also canopies over the platforms, new yellow warning strips on both platforms to prevent commuters from getting too close to the tracks, and a glass art installation by local artist Derrick Adams. Other structural upgrades include new railings, new staircases, and electrical work.
The ceremony kicked off just after 11 a.m., with attendees and speakers gathered under the tracks on the corner of Nostrand and Atlantic Avenues. As trains rattled by overhead, Eng gave opening remarks, extending a welcome to Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., who represents Bed-Stuy and Prospect Heights and uses the station frequently. He also welcomed a representative for Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Oscar Jonas, as well as representatives from Forte Construction Corporation and HDR design firm who served as, respectively, contractors and designers for the project.
As Eng stated, LIRR completed work on 17 stations in 2019, “Today, we build on those accomplishments here at Nostrand Avenue.”
Eng spoke about his goal of making the entire LIRR system accessible to all riders, and mentioned the relaunch of the ADA task force, who have engaged members of the disability community in order to “identify the needs and to execute crucial initiatives that benefit all riders.” Behind Eng at the podium were four members of the task force: Edith Prentiss, Debra Greif, and Greif’s son, Christopher Greif.
“This station, for the first time, will truly be accessible to all who live, who work, who travel through this thriving neighborhood,” he said.
Out of the railroad’s 124 stations, Eng stated, 85% — 106 stations — are fully accessible, including the Nostrand Avenue station. Elevators are currently being installed at Murray Hill and Floral Park stations.
“As the city moves to become more inclusive,” Council Member Cornegy stated at the event, “we must continue making investments and insuring our public transportation stations are accessible to all its users.”
These investments, the Council Member insisted, “don’t just make our neighborhood more accessible to customers with disabilities, but it makes them more family-friendly and walkable.”
The improvements will benefit local businesses, particularly mom-and-pop shops that depend on foot traffic and a “vibrant streetscape.”
“We’ve been waiting for this,” the Council Member said. He and his family use the station every summer on their way to Fire Island, he said. “You can imagine us dragging luggage and coolers up and down the stairs. That’s how we begin our vacation, which is usually with a fight,” the Council Member told the crowd, with a chuckle. The elevator will be a huge help to them, as well as to constituents with disabilities and families with strollers and young children.
“Look, mass transit is the lifeblood of the greatest city in the world — which is this city.” Senator Kevin Parker of the 21st district said, who made a surprise appearance. “And certainly, how can we call it the lifeblood if everybody doesn’t have access to it?”
Christopher Greif, who sits on the LIRR ADA task force and the New York City Transit Riders Council, told us that the newly-installed elevators will allow more members of the community to easily travel to the beach, to Jamaica, Queens, to the airport.
People in need of elevators no longer have to go all the way down to the LIRR station on Atlantic Avenue, Greif said, “Now, you got a connection.”
Eng told us that he knows how central a station can be to a local community.
“You want to take pride in your community,” Eng said. “If our stations are not in good condition, if your stations are not clean, or they’re not accessible — people lose that pride. That’s where the railroad needs to step up.”
The new art installation adorning the station, called “Around the Way,” consists of vivid glass panels that span the length of each platform. The panels present a dense configuration of people, trees, and urban features like streets and buildings, which symbolize, as the MTA stated in a press release, “the importance of nature in the city and its cycles of growth, renewal, and sustainability,” as well as the “symbiotic relationship between neighborhood residents and their built environment.”
Adams, elected for the project by a panel of arts professionals from Brooklyn, has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years. The station, he said, is “a beacon in this neighborhood” that serves as a point of reference for those who travel in from other parts of the city. He wanted to give the station “a new life,” with his artwork, he said.
“His proposal was outstanding,” said Lester Burg, Deputy Director of MTA Arts and Design. “Having someone from the neighborhood really makes a difference in having the art resonate [with commuters.]”
“If you’re standing here waiting on the train, this is a heck of a conversation piece,” Council Member Cornegy said.