Pols: MTA was warned about crumbling 181st Street station before ceiling collapse
Transit officials failed to heed to three years of complaints over water leaks and crumbling tiles at the 181 Street No. 1 subway station, where a ceiling collapse covered 35 feet of track with debris and service has been knocked out for up to a week.
“We’re not surprised. We’ve been hearing complaints about this from residents for years,” said Manny Velazquez, chair of Community Board 12 in Washington Heights.
According to Velazquez, the MTA had acknowledged the community board’s concerns but did not take action. The agency did not respond directly to the board’s allegations Monday.
The MTA said they are still investigating the cause of the Sunday evening collapse of the station’s landmarked brick ceiling and archway, but local officials believe water seepage contributed to the problem.
Water is a chronic complaint at many of the deep stations on the No. 1 line, and residents sometimes use umbrellas to keep dry, Velazquez said.
A train inside the three-story deep station was not damaged and no one was injured in the collapse. NYC Transit called in a contractor yesterday to remove loose tiles and make temporary repairs. In the meantime, straphangers will be forced to take shuttle buses or walk three long blocks to the A train.
“It’s a hardship,” said Melvin Cunningham, 43, a longtime local resident. “Those stations are not very well kept and they are not well lit.”
It takes 20 shuttle buses to carry one full train of passengers, and elected officials predict frustrating waits and crowding in the congested neighborhood.
On an average weekday, a total of 26,500 straphangers use the 181st Street, 191st Street and Dyckman Street stations, where No. 1 service will be suspended during the work. Thousands of riders will have to board shuttle buses at Dyckman Street and at 168th Street to bypass the closed stations.
The 181st Street station received a $7 million partial rehab in 1999, including new elevators and tile cleaning, said Assemb. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan), but no major work is scheduled for the station over the next five years.
The MTA has struggled to keep up with station repairs after years of neglect and limited funding. More than 80 percent of the system’s 468 stations have a “significant backlog” of needed repairs, according to MTA documents.
Transit typically replaces tile during full station rehabs but rarely remakes the tunnels or station ceilings, said MTA board member Andrew Albert.
“This certainly calls for inspecting all of the tunnels to ensure their integrity,” Albert said.
The 181st Station is listed with the National Register of Historic Places and its ceiling is decorated with terra cotta medallions that once held chandeliers.