MTA Fails On First Day, RIOC Follows, Signaling Major Fears Ahead Now


As reported last week, the MTA failed out of the gate, launching a project with one of only two elevators down for months. This is unfair to numerous people, especially the wheelchair-dependent and other physically challenged riders. Then, on Project Day One, it got much worse, and official indifference carried it further.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The MTA Fails Before During and After

It didn’t bode well when the MTA shut down the Manhattan side elevator, just days before the 6-month Track Fixation Project started. How could they be so unprepared?

And worse yet, it was on the side where all trains would operate while crews shut down the other track and got to work replacing rails.

How would physically challenged folks – we have lots of them – get to and from trains? The MTA had no answer, although one MTA executive who forgot to wear his clown suit said, “Take the Q102.”

Where on which platform does the Q102 stop?

A bad situation with no solution and not a word from RIOC about what they could do. But how long should folks in wheelchairs wait while they slowly “assess” the situation?

But on Monday morning, Day One, while RIOC’s and the MTA’s deep thinkers pondered, conditions got much worse.

A fit young couple used their heads, doubling up to get their stroller down a recently repaired escalator.

Roosevelt Islanders entered the reopened Roosevelt Island subway station and found one escalator also down, doubling the loss of options for getting from the street to the platforms.

By the time I checked things out, things deteriorated even further.

Inside, the countdown clock showed the shuttle toward Queens in a “Delay.” As it’s the only train in the system, the implications were far-reaching.

But that was relatively small among MTA fails – and even smaller when I found out what else was wrong…

When I found men working on the lower Queens side escalator, I asked why they’d started a project on a track where the elevator was out until November.

“Oh, this one’s out too,” he said.

That’s right. The Queens side elevator is also out, this one until Thanksgiving.

No Working Elevators in the Roosevelt Island Subway Station Until November or Later

Upstairs, MTA reps were dealing with passengers confused or troubled. The reps are unfailingly polite and as helpful as they can be. But how do you tell people that, yes, the bridge fell down, and no, we weren’t prepared but hop aboard anyway.

ABC 7’s report on Day One

“So, if I’m in a wheelchair and I arrive on Roosevelt Island, how do I get home?”

He was nice. He tried gamely, but in the end, he had no answer because there is no answer.

Because neither RIOC nor the MTA made any announcement* about the elevators being down, I pleaded with him to have a sign posted outside the station. Our physically restricted friends would still be stuck, but at least, it wouldn’t be a few hundred feet underground.

*RIOC did manage to push out an advisory about the Motorgate elevators being out, but addressing the subway just seemed too much for their three-person Team Communications. (Don’t you just wonder what the clowns do all day with only an occasional advisory to show for it?)

How poor was MTA’s planning that situations like this arise on the first day? As we pointed out last week, the MTA fails here because they have no backup plans, not just for elevators but not for train breakdowns, sick passengers or anything else.

Feeling confident getting on?

Can RIOC Keep Up?

Come on. Of course, they can. If the MTA fails, RIOC can always do them one better.

As passengers backed up outside the turnstiles, RIOC stuck religiously to their midday, single cabin operation.

It’s not just that RIOC failed to deal with overcrowding in Tram cabins as President/CYA Shelton J. Haynes’s branding and marketing campaign unfolded. But it’s also a failure to encourage every day courtesy and respect.

“Following feedback from some of our Constituent Service meetings,” Haynes bloviated in RIOC News, “we have also reiterated to Tram operator POMA the need to ensure seating priority for the disabled, elderly, and pregnant women is adhered to, especially while the trackwork is taking place.”

Since this never happens, operators never say a word about it, it leaves us two choices:

  1. POMA and its operators consider Haynes a blowhard not worth listening to, or…
  2. He lied.

Which do you prefer?

But Why Leave It There?

After checking out the MTA fail at the subway and finding it worse than expected, I packed into a crowded Tram cabin and quickly discovered that the operator wasn’t going to say a word about the preferred seating. So, I did.

I pointed out the sign, and one woman got up and allowed an older woman to have her seat.

All well and good, but then something my wife warns me about happened. A man also seated on the bench blew a gasket. He cut loose a profanity-laced barrage.

“Who the f–k deputized you?” He screamed.

“Well, this guy wasn’t going to do anything,” I said, gesturing at the Tram operator standing next to me.

(In fairness, the Tram operator had a good reason for his silence. He was busy cleaning his fingernails.)

The barrage blazed for most of the trip over, but the Tram operator saw no cause to intervene.

On the 2nd Avenue platform, I told the guy I hadn’t intended to upset him, but saying he was out of control puts it mildly. When I told him that it was just good citizenship, that somebody needs to stand up.

I was then treated to an emotional treatise on good citizenship.

Then, he got really offensive.

“You look like the kind of person who used to harrass my parents,” he said.

I haven’t mentioned skin color, his or mine, didn’t think it was relevant, but that’s racism salted with grievance politics.

Maybe be my wife’s right: “There are too many crazy people out there. Don’t say anything.”

But I’m not ready to hand Roosevelt Island – or the city – over to bullies and screamers. At 6’2″ and 185, I could handle this guy, but what about all those smaller and frailer? Who sticks up for them?

We already know who will not.

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  1. And now we are getting even more residents with a 23 story building going up!!!! This island cannot handle that many more people. WTF?!!!!?

    • I understand that, but with the right leadership, we can handle it, I think. Of course, then, the problem is that we haven’t had good, effective leadership in years.

  2. You should really be contacting Public Safety if some crazed rider is gonna pester you the entire Tram ride. The operators are not cops. I’ve seen people scream nasty remarks in their face from the old mask mandate to the MTA track work that has nothing to do with them. I could imagine it’s hard enough seeing them have to manage groups of 80+ reasonably frustrated residents trying to go home or to work with minimal backup. Loved the whole article, but that part just felt petty.

    • I should add that I did talk to a PSO when I came back. He suggested that I tell the Tram operator, which I did without interrupting his grooming procedure. Then, he said I should tell the POS in the station. “There’s always one,” which isn’t true and wasn’t that day. He was polite and friendly but showed no interest at all in making out a report of anything else. All pretty typical.

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