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Is the East Side Access ugly over? Answer looks like “Yes.”

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A decade ago, the East Side Access project brought ugly wrap-around fencing to the worst location: Straight across from the subway station where most people enter Roosevelt Island. Its in-your-face presence will be coming down. It should be soon.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

East Side Access Project: “We have to finish this year.”

Here’s how subway users have been greeted by the MTA for the last decade, but change is afoot.

On a sunny day, the entry gate by the West Promenade was open. A friendly trio of East Side Access construction workers smiled when I asked if the fencing would ever come down.

“No, we have to finish this year,” one joked.

The East Side Access debacle project, now four times more costly than its original budget, has dragged on for fifteen years after getting federal funding. It was always a political boondoggle that will serve few passengers, all from Long Island. But it served its purpose in earning union votes.

In short, everything about it has been just as ugly as the fence. But time is finally running out. Even government work is not eternal.

Behind the Fence

Multiple portable toilets, heaps of trash and free parking are gone as East Side Access nears completion. According to the most reliable resource on the planet, the Historical Society’s Judith Berdy, a piece of mosaic artwork waits behind the wooden case.

“I used to run straight through there,” I told them, pointing at the grates.

In the early 2000s, before the fence went up, the subway airshaft, installed with the station, had been just that. It vented the four tunnels under the East River between Roosevelt Island and the rest of Manhattan.

Most Roosevelt Islanders, because the community has become so transient, have never seen this area without the ugly fencing. Now, the cleared-out air shaft and its new artwork will transform the space.

Imagine the next cherry blossom season without the eyesore. You never know, RIOC might even be inspired enough to update the out-of-date wayfinding signs.

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