More than a year after a ceiling collapse at a landmark Washington Heights subway station, riders are frustrated with a reconstruction project they feel has gone on too long and caused too much of a mess. NY1's Transit reporter John Mancini filed the following report.
It's more than just a tight squeeze on the IRT platform at 181st Street. Waiting for the Number 1 train at one of the system's deepest stops puts pressure on all the senses.
"Not only is it hot down there, the smell of, like, the mold and the mildew, you could still smell it," says transit rider Sonia Neal. "The debris, there's always water dripping."
A year since service was restored after a ceiling collapse, the rehabilitation continues. This 1906 station is on the National Register of Historic Places, but today it is anything but pretty. Peeling paint and rust stains mar its mosaics and trash is piled behind construction barriers that dramatically narrow the platform.
"It's very dangerous because you have to walk very carefully and be aware of people when the train is coming," says transit rider James Gore.
Transit officials warn better conditions will not be coming soon. The height of the ceiling and the 120-feet depth of the station complicate the job. Just last month, consultants were first able to judge the condition of the brick archwork, so only now can they look to set a timetable for completion.
Still, elected officials say fixes have been delayed too long by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at the 1 line station and the nearby A line stop at 181st Street and Fort Washington Avenue. At the latter, a booth has been closed and an escalator that was damaged by mechanical failure in May is still out.
"We want some accountability from the MTA. We know that they're getting more revenues. We want to see these revenues applied," said Manhattan Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat.
The Number 1 stop has gotten so bad that some riders say they go out of their way to use others. If they venture five blocks to the A stop, the challenge is reaching platforms eight flights from the street. Transit officials say the broken escalator will not be back in service until mid-October at the soonest.
When the escalators are not working, riders face a dizzying number of flights of stairs to ascend or descend.
"If that happens, I walk to the other end, because I'm not willing to walk all the stairs," says transit rider Jose Rivera.
The other end, with a staffed booth and elevator service, is a three-block walk just above the station's tracks. It's a bridge too far for weary riders, and just another reminder of the underground trouble spanning the neighborhood.