The passengers were trapped inside an 87-year-old elevator at the Brooklyn Heights station for nearly an hour. They only escaped after an FDNY crew arrived and used two ladders to help the commuters climb out.
The station has three elevators, which is the only method for straphangers to get up and down to the platform. There is an emergency staircase 10 flights long, but it’s closed to riders.
Two days after the incident, local elected officials called on the MTA to take immediate action to replace the malfunctioning elevators.
“I am claustrophobic,” said Borough President Eric Adams. “I would have climbed up the walls just thinking about being in that elevator for close to an hour.”
The borough president noted that fixing these three particular elevators is already part of the MTA’s capital plan. But he said the agency should begin making the repairs this year.
“Our ask is simple,” Adams said. “We want to fast-track the capital replacement work to begin before the end of the calendar year.”
He added that residents have complained about the elevators for months, and some avoid using the station even when the elevators are running.
“That is an indictment on the entire system,” he said.
Adams further requested that the MTA open the emergency staircase and allow those who are capable to walk from the platform. He acknowledged that Clark Street is one of the deepest stations in the system and and it’s an unusual request, but “these are unusual times.”
“I don’t want the people of this community to get off the train after arriving at their destination and only hope they can make it to the top of this subway station,” he said. “That is unacceptable.”
“In the meantime, we believe the emergency gates must be open,” Adams added.
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez also echoed the call for the MTA to act swiftly at the station.
“That is what this community deserves, and that’s what we are demanding,” she said. “We are saying today, do it and do it fast.”
The elected officials were joined by transit advocates and local residents outside the station last Wednesday. Rebecca Bailin, political director with the Riders Alliance, called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to make funding and fixing the fledgling subway system a priority in the upcoming budget cycle.
“What happened at this station is terrifying, but also terrifyingly predictable,” Bailin said. “I call on Governor Cuomo to help everyday New Yorkers because it can get worse.”
Jaqi Cohen, coordinator of the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, recalled speaking out when the ceiling at the Borough Hall station, just one stop from Clark Street on the 2 and 3 trains, collapsed.
“I think this amplifies the bigger problem,” she said. “The subway crisis we’re currently experiencing doesn’t just exist on the tracks themselves, but in the stations as well.”
Toba Potosky, a Cadman Plaza resident for three decades, said it’s “no secret” to neighbors that the elevators have been a “big problem,” especially for seniors.
He said community members have called 311 or tried to get in touch with the station manager many times over the years.
“Understandably, mechanics do fail from time to time,” he said. “But where’s the communication? How do you get in touch with somebody?”
But Potosky said having the support of local officials means the MTA and Cuomo cannot say they’re not aware of the situation.
The MTA says it is already working on addressing the elevators at the station.
“All of the elevators at Clark Street are set to be replaced under the current capital program,” an MTA spokesperson said in a statement. “It’s a fully funded project and we are beginning replacement in the next several months.”