The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Monumental Good News for the Q at Parkside

Every once in a while the Q's civic tears get jerked, in a good way. How else to respond, after repeated entreaties to local officials about the sorry state of our subway stations, all the while expecting a protracted fight to get anyone's attention -- to then get this response from Councilman Eugene's office today:

Dear residents:

My office has been in conversation with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) regarding much-needed renovations at subway stations throughout the district. As you know, several subway stations along the B/Q line have already undergone renovations these past few years, including the Newkirk Avenue and Avenue H stations. I am pleased to inform you that the MTA will be completing additional renovations and repairs at the Parkside Avenue, Beverley Road and Cortelyou Road stations which are scheduled to begin next year. In the following months, I will make arrangements to have the MTA come to the community to present their proposal for the projects and participate in a public discussion. -  Mathieu Eugene
Really? Wow. I'm not naive enough to think this is the direct result of some of us a-squeakin' and squawkin' but about nice timing! Local resident Dynishal and I met with Eugene in December and presented him with a bunch of photographs of the decrepit conditions and implored him to make this a priority. Rudy of the Parkside Prize has been featuring the sorry state of the Q station heavily in his presentations - to anyone who will listen, including most recently CB's 9 and 14. And the Q was about to put the following letter on and ask y'all to sign it as a petition. A terrific writer whose name rhymes with Moody Selson spruced  up the petition quite a bit, so I can't take full credit, but I think it captures the problem pretty well. Now we just need to get MTA to add Prospect Park's station to the list, and maybe the bland headhouse of the Church stop at Caton? And by the way, we'll need y'all to show up when MTA comes out to talk, because we need to stress that more than just the structural issues should be addressed. We need to gussy 'em up and get 'em to look purty! Here's the petition that might not need to be a petition, at least not yet...


A Call to the MTA from the People of Flatbush/PLG
to rehabilitate the subway stations at

Every weekday last year, fifteen thousand people came and went from our neighborhood by way of the Prospect Park and Parkside Avenue subway stations. Each weekend, twenty thousand visitors used these two stations to reach Prospect Park, the Zoo and Botanic Gardens, and the thriving business district along Flatbush Avenue.

The generation that built the old Brighton line understood how important these two subway stations would be to the borough, and they built them as tributes to the people of Brooklyn.

The subway stations at Prospect Park and Parkside Avenue are elegant examples of old BMT “headhouses”—more than mere caverns carved under the street, they are buildings central to the streetscape above. They were meant to be the pride of our neighborhood: like Brooklyn's armories, libraries and schools, these old BMT headhouses were a symbol of the city's honor for its citizens and for its public life.

But they’ve sadly fallen into decay. Even as other stations along the same line receive glorious makeovers and major renovations, residents and visitors to the east side of Prospect Park suffer the discomfort of an ugly welcome, and the indignity of a shabby departure.

In the fall of 2012, the first phases of Prospect Park Alliance's $73 million Lakeside Project will open to visitors. A new recreation center with an year-round skating rink, acres of new green spaces and pathways, and a newly restored Music Island will together attract thousands of new visitors to east side of Prospect Park every week. The time is now to build a better Brighton Line to welcome this influx!


We—the regular riders of the Q and the B—together with our local elected officials, community groups, and merchants have come together to ask our MTA to rehabilitate our two stations - in the name of safety and aesthetics. We seek:

  • A complete renovation of the historic headhouses, one that honors the century-old details of these fine buildings.
  • A thorough engineering review, to prevent further damage to the platforms and embankments from ground water and weeds.
  • Appropriate restoration of the ceilings and roofs, the walls, stairs and columns, the lighting and signage in both stations.
  • A decent paint job.

Furthermore, we call on our MTA to better maintain the public structures we have entrusted to it by:

  • Committing to keep these subway stations free of litter and graffiti.
  • Committing to regular maintenance to ensure that broken doors and windows get fixed quickly and properly.
  • Designating a point-person to serve as MTA's ombudsperson for the neighborhood, to create better communication between our neighborhood and the public transit agency that serves it.

Finally, we ask for:

  • A review of MTA's use of public land adjacent to both stations.
  • Long-term commitments to turn the triangle of concrete south of Parkside Station and the parking lot north of Prospect Park Station into public parks (as envisioned by the land use plan of Community Board 9).

We know that these are goals that the NYCTA-MTA shares—because we count so many MTA employees among our neighbors, and because we have seen the tremendous commitment of the MTA to restoring and refurbishing other subway stations along the Brighton Line. In the name of safety and the very dignity of our community, we ask that you consider our requests seriously, and help us to identify ways we can partner with you to keep the stations clean, vibrant and inviting in the future.

After decades of neglect, now is our time!


Anonymous said...

Appreciate your and Rudy's work here, but you should now that the petition would not be successful (at least in the short-term), and why.

The MTA sets out its capital program in 5-year plans. We are currently in the middle of the 2010-2014 plan, which was planned out in 2008-2009 by the MTA. All the projects that the MTA has started or will start in the next few years are in the plan.

Rehabilitations for Parkside, Prospect Park, etc. are not in the plan. Full rehabilitation of these stations would cost about $40-50 million per station, based on what it cost to rehabilitate Avenue H, J, U, etc. (which were funded in the 2005-2009 plan). If you want to get our neighborhood stations fully rehabilitated, you need to press to get them in the 2015-2019 plan.

What the MTA does have planned for our stations is the lipstick-on-a-pig approach, as these projects will be funded out of the general pot of money for station repairs in the whole system (which is about $500 million, so about $1 million per station). Don't expect big changes.

Last, ignore our esteemed councilman. The MTA is a state agency, and you should be talking to Camara, Jacobs, Adams (or his successor), Parker etc. about funding and anything else MTA-related. Also, note that the already lean 2010-2014 plan's budget was cut by 10% last week, which you might have seen in the news - or not, because nobody cares that our politicians perennially underfund the MTA (though we do like to complain a lot). If you're interested, has a lot more info.

Anonymous said...

i hate to sound like the voice of negativity, but i would so much rather endure the current grossness of both of those stations than have them closed down for who-knows-how long for renovations.(i am making that assumption, since this is what has happened during the other renovations) the fact that the B train no longer stops at Parkside has been a major hassle for my commute, not to mention my patients who come to my private practice here in the neighborhood. the idea of having the two closest stations potentially closed for renovations is a horrible thing for local businesses and a real burden for all of us, especially those of us with children who are carting them off somewhere using the mta. sorry if i sound short sighted, or whatever. but i can't get excited about the plan.

theQ said...

Thanks to both of you. To Anon 10:19, thanks for the primer because I think everyone should understand how this works. But make no mistake: the reason I wanted the petition to start NOW is that now is the time to try to get on the 2015 Capital agenda. And yes, the councilman does not directly vote for MTA programs (neither does the State legislature, since it appropriates money but doesn't pick and choose projects - that's the murky responsibility of the Authority itself), BUT...various council members and the Mayor do have the ear of MTA, which ultimately proposes the projects it deems a priority. Senator Adams is well aware of our feelings on the stations. Help from Karim Camara would be helpful too and should be considered.

My point is that yes it's a longshot and longhaul but what have we got to lose? When elected officials see how many votes they can shore up by doing something that directly affects the quality of life of thousands of people -- this is probably the most effective lobbying they can do to secure their jobs and reputations.

To Anon 11:16 - I hear you. I'd feel your pain too if in fact a full shut down were warranted (I doubt it will be for mere renovations, but we probably shouldn't speculate). If there are safety problems in the infrastructure I'd hope we'd all agree that a disruption is better than a disaster.

By the way, the B at Parkside was a blip. The express was never meant to stop at Parkside, but for those two brief glorious years, though our gain slowed down everyone's trip south of here to Brighton. In the event that major work does ever take place, I would certainly hope the MTA would have the good sense not to close down two stations right next to each other.

Anonymous said...

I hate the thought of a lipstick on pig approach, but if that will prevent further deterioration? I'd be willing to settle for that.

Why the 2 major gateways to Prospect Park on its eastern side have fallen into such shambles is beyond my comprehension.

Just wondering why Avenues H,J,U got funded ahead of Prospect Park and Parkside. We certainly have more riders.


babs said...

If you can believe it, there are subway stations in FAR worse condition than our two. Ever been to the Brooklyn Bridge/Chambers St. stop on the J train? It is probably the most decrepit and downright scary-looking station I've ever been in.

The Avenue H station is a landmarked structure; it was originally the site of the real estate office that sold the house sin the surrounding Fiske Terrace area (now also a landmarked historic district) and was converted to its current use in 1907.

The restoration of this structure has been planned since 2007; see more about it here:

All this to say that I don't feel we've been unduly neglected in this process; the MTA is equally crappy to all and terminally corrupt and mismanaged.

Anonymous said...

This is anon 10:19. I 'm glad that you're thinking of the 2015 plan, because I think an effective case should be made for including Prospect Park and Parkside in the next capital budget. Getting the CB's on board would definitely help. I'd just like to elaborate on my last point in my prior post, because maybe it wasn't explained well enough.

Our politicians should be focused on increasing funding for the MTA, not just allocating what limited funding it does get. Why, for example, was Adams against congestion pricing/East River tolls? That money would have straight to the MTA. Where is Camara on this issue? He's got real pull in the Assembly majority, but has anyone heard him talk about increasing funding? When the next fare hike comes on 1/1/2013, though, watch all the cheap grandstanding that will occur.

Right now, we're all just fighting for scraps, begging the MTA to renovate our stations, and by extension not renovate somebody else's that also need renovation. Statements like Babs's that the "MTA is equally crappy to all", although they are not untrue, obscure the real issue - the MTA is crappy because we as a society have made a collective decision that we don't want to pay for a modern transit system, and therefore it will stay crappy. Corruption and mismanagement have nothing to do with it (I should point out that the MTA now publishes all their board minutes, financial reports, and spending plans on their website - they're one of the most transparent government agencies around in this respect).

babs said...

The MTA may be transparent now, or pretend to be, but they sure as hell do not have a history of being so. And in terms of mismanagement, how about the bus shelter fiasco? LOVE that great B61 shelter at the corner of Union and Seventh Ave. in Park Slope - it's great for adjusting my groceries on my way home from the co-op, because there sure ain't any bus coming there now - great idea to put them in and then eliminate the bus line entirely several months later. How about that Fulton St. transit hub? How many iterations has it been through. And don't even mention the Second Ave subway. You may say that these problems are a result of politicians playing fast and loose with the MTA's budget, but isn't part of management managing upwards? Therefore, shouldn't the various MTA chairmen involved been making sure that their funding was secure? And I agree, Adams's opposition to congestion pricing was clearly pandering to his car-loving constituents (you know who you are) - rather short-sighted, considering how many others rely on public transportation, and clearly an error on his part.

Anonymous said...


- Partially agree on the Union Ave bus shelters. Although in hindsight they are pointless, this is also a good example of the uncertainty that the MTA faces every year at budget time: when they were installed, the service cuts were not set in stone, because the extent of the budget deficit was not certain and it was still possible for the politicians to avert those cuts by creating a new funding stream for the MTA, which was in discussion at the time. Who knows, if said funding stream ever materializes buses might run down Union again.

- Agree on the Fulton St. hub, it's been a disaster. Only saving grace is that the feds are picking up the whole tab. SAS has moved along fairly well and stayed on budget - the problem was the bogus 5 year window that they gave, which was completely unrealistic, and the lack of community outreach.

- With respect to "managing upwards", this is where New Yorkers typically completely misunderstand the relationship between the MTA and the State. The State has complete control over the MTA: it gives and takes money from the MTA as it sees fit, and the MTA chairman bows and scrapes and keeps his mouth shut. As an example, in the 2009, 2010, and 2011 State budgets, the State pilfered a combined $260 million dollars from a funding stream dedicated to the MTA to distribute into the State's general fund - this year's budget was actually the first one since 2008 where no such raid occurred. In this sense, the MTA chairman is not like the CEO of a private corporation - he's like the CEO of any non-profit (which is what the MTA is) wholly dependent on the State for support.

babs said...

So the ideal MTA chairman would be someone who knows how to deal with the people in Albany, which is why they keep calling on Richard Ravitch, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Ravitch would be an ideal chairman, but he also tells it like it is, which is a major faux paux in today's Albany.

Anonymous said...

While they're at it, they should build a green roof over the subway tracks to muffle the sound of the trains going by and to create nice park space.

Hey, I can dream, can't I? ;-)