Calls for netting under elevated N W train lines

A pedestrian walking under the elevated N/W train lines in Astoria was nearly struck by a plastic flashlight that fell from the platform above.

According to Councilman Costa Constantinides, the incident happened last Thursday around 8 a.m. during a “routine train inspection.” The unidentified woman, a lifelong Astoria resident, later reported the incident to Constantinides’ office.

“It landed right at her feet,” he said. “A couple more inches, and she could’ve been seriously hurt.”

On Monday, Constantinides called on the MTA to install netting under the elevated N/W lines in Astoria and Long Island City, all the way to the last stop on Ditmars Boulevard.

The agency is already planning to install nets between Queensboro Plaza and 39th Avenue as part of a pilot program to test whether and how the material may capture potential hazards, such as loose debris, while allowing regular inspections.

A contract for the N/W lines, as well as the 1 line at 125th Street in Harlem, will be awarded at a later date, with installation set to begin this summer.

The N/W tracks had not been renovated for nearly a century, Constantinides said, which is why the MTA is repairing the infrastructure now.

The Ditmars Boulevard station went through a 14-month rehabilitation project that fixed dilapidated stairs, concrete slabs and support structures to improve accessibility, lighting and signage.

The Astoria Boulevard stop is closed through December for a reconstruction project that will bring four elevators to the station. Other improvements include rebuilding the mezzanine, replacing the platform roof and canopies and installing new platform edges.

While the 30th Avenue, Broadway, 36th Avenue and 39th Avenue stations all went through station enhancement projects of their own, Constantinides said the MTA is still doing track work there to make sure the trains run on time.

The councilman said with so much work on elevated tracks and platforms, chances are that accidents can happen to pedestrians below.
Nearly 52,000 commuters go to the N/W stations every weekday.

“A small mistake, just an instance of fumbling a flashlight in their hands, can lead to a very dangerous outcome,” he said. “We can’t have another rare occurrence happen.

“We have to make sure we protect our residents,” Constantinides added. “If netting was there, it could be completely avoided.”

In a statement, the MTA said that workers follow strict safety protocols, and anyone responsible for failing to secure equipment “will be held accountable.”

“We’re undertaking a short netting trial in several areas in order to design an effective solution that protects the streets while still allowing visual and physical access for regular inspections,” the MTA said in a statement. “In the meantime, we are already protecting the public by reinforcing safety rules with employees and enhancing our regular inspections.”

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