“I got a monthly. Here I go,” said State Sen. Bill Perkins, pulling his MetroCard out of his wallet inside the new expansion of the West 96th Street station.
Straphangers wiggled through a throng of MTA officials, elected representatives and press to access the new 96th Street station house—an above-ground entrance to the No. 1, 2 and 3 trains that sits on the Broadway median, between West 95th and 96th streets.
“It’ll be a showcase for the organization,” said Jay Walder, chairman and CEO of the MTA.
The full 40-month, $98 million project will be completed this fall, but the station house opened April 5, simplifying commuter access to trains. Previously, riders had to walk down a flight of stairs to get below platform level, then up a staircase back to the platform. Now, riders can walk to the platform without going through a labyrinth in the train station. The West 96th Street sidewalk entrances have been closed permanently.
The new station was influenced by the West 72nd Street station in Verdi Square, on the Broadway median. The West 96th Street station house features granite blocks and benches for pedestrians.
Council Member Gale Brewer, who represents the West Side between Columbus Circle and West 96th Street, said the new station will be a destination similar to Verdi Square.
“It’s something people will gather toward,” she said outside of the station. “We hope it stays clean.”
That, too, is a concern for the MTA. Walder, the head of the transit authority, said there will be a maintenance program to keep up the new station.
“It’s clear we haven’t been able to do that for a long time,” he said. “The issue is keeping it in this condition.”
Now that the station house is open, construction will focus on other projects, including rehabilitating the West 94th Street sidewalk entrances and installing ADA-accessible elevators, which other express stops along the 1, 2 and 3 lines offer.
“This opens a whole new corridor for people who travel from 100th Street down,” said Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal.
Rosenthal added: “We have concerns with the MTA budget and completion of capital projects, but on the Upper West Side, we’re glad.”
The opening of the station house—and the fact that construction is on schedule—gave the beleaguered MTA a boost after voting on service cuts to balance its budget. Other capital projects, like the East Side’s Second Avenue subway and Fulton Street station, have been behind schedule.
Sen. Perkins, who chairs a committee that oversees the MTA and other authorities, said the opening of the new station should restore some of the public’s confidence in city transit.
“Projects are in the pipeline and get clogged—that’s the perception,” Perkins said. “This restores some faith, that when the MTA wants to, they can be successful.”
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