If you want to pick a New York neighborhood to stand for snobby elitism it’s easy to turn to the Upper East Side. And though that’s a broad stereotype, a new controversy is helping to reinforce it. The Times brings us the story of the residents of East 69th Street near Lexington Avenue, who are joining together to resist what they perceive to be an impending threat…subway station entrances. Um. Aren’t subway entrances a fact of life in New York? As the Times explains, “a major thrust of their argument is that their blocks are simply too pretty” for what the MTA says are necessary installments for access to the station when elevators are built at the 68th Street 6 line stop.
The MTA does not really see a way to get around this. The elevators are being built to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Installing them will shut down the 68th Street stop, which is a busy one. The Times writes:
Yet the platforms at the 68th Street stop extend underground to East 69th Street. For the agency, the answer was simple: just build permanent entrances there, which would also ease overcrowding once the original entrances reopen. The job is projected to cost $57 million and take just over three years, one of which would go to the construction of the entrances.
But, really, no one’s overreacting:
Residents are feeling, in the words of one, “hysterical,” all the while trying to defuse charges of Upper East Side snobbery.
“It’s not as though any of us are sitting there riding around in limos and saying other people should ride the subways, like Marie Antoinette,” said Charles Salfeld, who has lived at the Imperial House on East 69th Street since 1976. “What we object to is this access to and from the subway done at the expense of the residential and pristine quality of 69th Street.”
Let them take taxis!
To defend that “pristine quality,” the Times reports, residents are becoming activists of sorts, forming a block association, hiring lawyers and hoping to get an engineering firm to give expert opinion as to why the entrances don’t need to go on their block (or maybe anywhere else).
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 26, 2012