Everyday, as October turns into November, the sun sets earlier little by little. As the sunsets in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Kensington, straphangers beware.
Starting November 14, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) will suspend southbound F and G train service at 15th Street-Prospect Park and Fort Hamilton Parkway stations until spring 2012.
According to an MTA official, the service suspension at these two stations are required in order to rebuild the Culver Viaduct structure and to renew tracks, signals and switches.
This means that people who are riding on Coney Island-bound F trains or Church Avenue-bound G trains will not be able to get off at these two stations, forcing riders to have a longer walk home.
But this impending suspension will not occur without a fight from Councilmember Brad Lander, the area’s straphangers, community members and neighborhood safety organizations.
Considering , many of which happened in a subway station or just after the victim exited one, Lander believes the service suspension is a safety issue.
After receiving complaints from concerned residents, Lander sent a letter to the MTA’s New York City Transit president, Thomas Prendergast, to request a meeting to discuss better service alternatives during the suspension (to make it less of a risk to riders coming home after dark, especially women) or postponing the suspension until police arrest the sexual assault suspect or suspects, or until the spring and summer.
Lander met with the MTA last January, before the northbound F and G trains were suspended at these stations until May 2011, and asked for the B68 bus route to be extended from 15th Street-Prospect Park and Fort Hamilton Parkway stations to the Seventh Avenue station, to no avail. For five months riders had to walk or rely on “backriding.”
If a postponement doesn't happen, Lander will ask the MTA to consider extending the B68 bus route again during the upcoming meeting. He will also ask for them to provide additional policing or security at the stations.
“Over the past several months, there have been 20 sexual assaults, ranging from groping to rape, in the area surrounding these stations,” Lander wrote in his October 21 letter to Prendergast. “Police believe that the assaults have been perpetrated by several suspects who target women exiting the subway and walking to their homes after dark.”
Lander pointed out that the suspension will put women in a situation where they are forced to walk a longer distance, either from the Seventh Avenue or the Church Avenue stations, to their homes without the safety of sunlight.
He also wrote that commuters who backride from Church Avenue may find themselves alone on subway platform.
“Given the clear pattern of attacks in the nearby neighborhoods, both options put women in a troubling position,” he wrote.
Women waiting for a train at the 15th Street-Prospect Park station on Friday agreed.
“It is absolutely ridiculous! It is stupid to suspend service now,” said Kyoko Mizote, a 37-year-old who is two months pregnant. She said that she is concerned about having to walk ten blocks and two avenues in the snow during the middle of the service suspension. “It is unsafe and it’s gong to be darker a lot earlier in the winter. The police haven’t arrested the man or men tied to the sexual assaults, so at this point I cannot feel safe while walking home from the subway.”
The MTA will not provide a free shuttle bus for riders at the two stations. Instead, the MTA offers the below alternatives:
- For service from these stations, take a Manhattan-bound F train or Queens-bound G train to Seventh Avenue and transfer to a Coney Island-bound F or Church Avenue-bound G train.
- Take the B61, B67 or B69 buses for connections to F and G service at Seventh Avenue or Church Avenue.
For more information regarding the service changes, visit the MTA website.
Jessica Silk, a founder of Safe Slope, a community organization that offers walking companions to women from the subway to their home, is also concerned about the train service suspension.
Silk said that Safe Slope is preparing for the upcoming suspension at the 15th Street-Prospect Park F and G station. The group will provide walks home on Thursdays (8 p.m. to 1 a.m.), Fridays and Saturdays (8 p.m. to 3 a.m.).
RightRides, a group that offers women free rides home city-wide, will be stationed at the same stop and Fort Hamilton Parkway on Friday and Saturday nights (11:59 p.m. to 3 a.m.).
Brooklyn Bike Patrol, a neighborhood watch group that also escorts women home, can also provide walks from Monday through Friday at both stations.
The relatively new community-based group called Kensington Windsor Terrace Canine Watch (K9 WaTch) will provide walks home from Fort Hamilton and the Church Avenue station (with the aid of bandana-wearing dogs). They are currently recruiting volunteers and will be starting up soon.
“We hope the MTA will understand that the community knows our needs best and that this may be a particularly risky time to ask people in the neighborhood—especially women—to have a longer walk home,” Silk wrote in an E-mail.