Seniors in Sunnyside Want Better Access to the Train

Diana Saal, 72, wants to bring better access to public transportation for seniors in Sunnyside, Queens. Photo: Devin Holt

Diana Saal, 72, wants to bring better access to public transportation for seniors in Sunnyside, Queens. Photo: Devin Holt

Diana Saal remembers it as 70 steps — way too many, she said, to reach the 7 train in Sunnyside, Queens. This reporter took a walk and counted 61 steps at the Lincoln stop, and 57 at the Bliss and Lowery stops. Still quite a hike for Saal, 72, a retired psychology professor.

“It’s really unbelievable,” Saal said. “All of Sunnyside doesn’t have access to the elevated platform.”

By access Saal means an elevator. Sunnyside sits in the largest gap between wheelchair-accessible stations on the 7 line. Anyone in the neighborhood who needs an elevator has to go to 61st Street in Woodside, or Court Square in Long Island City.

Saal would like to change that. She’s been complaining to local papers, the MTA, and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. It isn’t working yet.

“Nothing has happened,” Saal said.

Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman, said in an email that the agency focuses on putting elevators at the busiest stops under its Key Stations Program.

“Given the configuration of certain stations and the age of the system, it is simply impossible or cost prohibitive to make every station accessible,” Ortiz wrote. “Focusing on the key stations allows us to focus precious resources on stations that will have the most impact.”

Ortiz pointed out that all of the city’s 5,700 buses are fully accessible. But Saal and other seniors said the buses are slow and crowded. Gertrude McDonald, 99, rides the Q60 from Flushing, which she recently moved to from Sunnyside, to Sunnyside Community Services. McDonald said the Q60 is “a disaster.”

“I was waiting for a bus the other day, and five buses — five Q60 buses passed in a row,” because they were already packed full, McDonald said.

Saal, who moved to New York from Cambridge, Massachusetts four years ago, said the lack of access is especially irritating given how good the 7 is. The Straphanger’s Campaign gave it the No. 1 spot in its 2015 subway “report card.” She has considered starting a petition, but said she was discouraged by neighbors who’ve lived in Sunnyside much longer.

“I think that people have given up on it,” Saal said. “Older people have told me, people have been petitioning for years and years, and they have always been told that there are more important priorities.”

So for now Sunnyside’s elder residents are taking the bus or the stairs. It might be 57 if you count them, but it sure feels like 70.

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