by Jenna Peet and Hifza Mahmood

Upper East Side Residents Protest Proposed Subway Entrances

Can a balanced be struck between the MTA's desire to install an elevator and new exits to the East 68th Street Station and residents' investment in the block's aesthetic quality?

The Tube, the Métro, U- and S-Bahns, and the Tunnelbana. Elevated trains, trams, streetcars, trolleys, buses, you name it – they exist for people to get from one place to another. Public transportation is truly at the heart of urban planning; without its regular pulsing of service to all limbs of the city, people would be stranded, asphyxiated, by their immediate environments. We New Yorkers have our MTA subway, which, despite the common bashing it gets for every minor delay or fare hike, is a pretty remarkable system. With an extensive number of subway lines, connections to other rail systems, and rapid travel time, the NYC subway maps out the city into identifiable neighborhoods and landmarks to make the urban environment incredibly accessible.

But the MTA is not immune to NIMBY – or “Not In My Back-Yard” – opposition. As this article describes, residents on East 69th Street by Lexington Avenue are staunchly against the relocation – and potential expansion – of the entrance to the 68th Street/Hunter College stop to their block. The construction on the station is necessary to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by providing elevator access to the station; the MTA’s choice for the exit at 69th Street is justified by the fact that the existing subway platforms extend towards this street, and that any other location for the exit would require an additional (and unnecessary) amount of construction. The permanence of the exit is likely, as it will probably reduce the crowdedness of the station that comes from Hunter College students. Owners and residents of the homes on this block stand united against this development, which could reduce the value of their property, bring unwanted pollution, and overall tarnish the architectural aesthetics of their block.

This conflict demonstrates an important and inevitable clashing between urban planners and city-dwellers: how do efficiency and aesthetics combine in civil works projects, and what effects do the construction and implementation of the project have on urban populations? If we look at the policy analysis model of planning, it should be obvious that the MTA would value the quantitative benefits of the locations of its stations over the qualitative ideals of the neighborhoods these exits are placed in. However, it may be possible to bridge the gap between the agendas of both parties. The MTA could take advantage of these architectural ideals and design their exits and stations in ways that reflect and please local residents, instead of conforming to a uniform plan. This urban planning approach could significantly reduce NIMBY issues in public works projects by investing in local artists, creating diversity in architecture, and adding a pleasurable aspect to everyday experiences.

Photo Source: Hunter College Graduate Admissions site

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