Commuters in Briarwood will be left hanging by more than just a strap until 2015.
Ongoing construction from the Kew Gardens Interchange project will force the more heavily used entrance of the Briarwood-Van Wyck station to close, pushing subway travelers out of an exit some residents have deemed dangerous.
The main entrance, located on the south side of Queens Boulevard, is expected to permanently close early this winter, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT), with construction efforts not expected to end until early 2015.
The remaining west side entrance leads out to the Van Wyck Expressway service road and borders Maple Grove Cemetery — a combination some residents find daunting.
“This is a problem for several reasons,” said resident Beth Brooks of the Briarwood Action Network. “Cars are used to speeding down there to get onto the Van Wyck. There is no stop light. There isn’t even a yield sign. There’s nothing there.”
Currently, the west side entrance is used by less than one percent of the station’s ridership, according to MTA spokesperson Charles Seaton.
“It didn’t matter before because nobody ever walked there,” said Brooks, a resident for over 25 years. “But now you’re going to have thousands of people a day coming out of that entrance. It’s a death trap.”
Brooks also expressed concerns about walking alone next to the cemetery at night.
“It’s very dark over there even in daylight. There is no foot traffic. It’s very isolated. It’s a perfect place for muggers, rapists and other unsavory characters,” she said.
Ridgewood resident Christine Evath shared the same sentiment.
“That doesn’t sound good to me. Not as a young female — that doesn’t sound good at all,” she said.
According to the DOT, the Kew Gardens Interchange project requires the station’s south side entrance to close before further construction contracts can continue. Among many changes, an auxiliary lane will be added to the Van Wyck and improvements — including an added elevator and a new entrance — will be made to the subway station.
But a brand new subway station isn’t worth the “inconvenience” or danger for resident Fred Stokes.
“I’d rather keep what’s been safe so far than take any other risk,” he said.
The issue even warranted the concern of nearby officials at Arch Bishop Molloy High School.
“We’re concerned about their safety,” said Assistant Principal Ken Auer. “We just try to keep them informed and aware at all times. We told them to keep their eyes open and to leave extra time because it’s going to be a longer walk.”
The high school is located on 83-53 Manton Street, just a few blocks down from the west side entrance.
“It’s a serious issue, but they’re young adults and they have to be careful. There’s nothing else we can really do,” Auer said.
Assemblymember Rory Lancman told The Courier that even he wouldn’t be too comfortable crossing the Van Wyck Expressway service road to get to the west side subway entrance.
After observing the area, he said cars that turn right onto Queens Boulevard have a tendency to make the turn very quickly.
“If you have someone in the middle of the crossway, a car is not going to have enough time to stop and that person is not going to have enough time to get out of the way,” Lancman said. “If you add nighttime and rain, it’s a real possibility for tragedy.”
With the exception of the “inadequate traffic control” located at the intersection between Queens Boulevard and the Van Wyck Expressway entrance ramp, Lancman and Officer Joseph Martins of the 102nd Precinct said residents should be safe otherwise.
“Right now, if residents follow and strictly adhere to the pedestrian traffic patterns that are in place, they will be safe,” Lancman said.