MTA takes aim at pigeons under Woodside stations

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The subway stations on the No. 7 line at 61st and 52nd streets have become host to flocks of an unwanted, bothersome commuter that no one seems to be able to get rid of.

Pigeons, hundreds of them, have come to inhabit the stations in such large numbers that they have prompted City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) to urge the Metropolitan Transit Authority to take action.

“The pigeon problem at (the stations) is out of control,” Gioia said. “Eliminating the pigeon problem at the stations will be a significant boost to the health and cleanliness of our neighborhood.”

In response to Gioia’s concerns, MTA officials said they will install an electrical device called an Avian Bird Relocation System at the 52nd Street station and may install one at Woodside station, sometime this year.

The system sends an uncomfortable but harmless signal that encourages birds to fly away and stay away over time, according to Gioia.

MTA President Lawrence Reuter said the installation of the device at the 52nd Street station is part of a pilot program that was successful in Brooklyn last year.

“I received a letter from the MTA saying they planned to install the device,” Gioia said. “I’m disappointed that 61st Street and other stations along the 7 line are not among the slated locations for the programs.”

Gioia has worked for two years to get the MTA to improve conditions for commuters at the Woodside station, which is a hub where the Long Island Rail Road intersects with the No. 7 lines, and the pigeons were a big part of the problem, he said.

“Pigeons are something I’ve worked hard to address,” Gioia said. “It’s a quality-of-life issue, a health concern and a commuter comfort issue.”

While the MTA did a major rehabilitation on the station several years ago, adding decorative facades and some wind barriers on the lower level, many commuters still say the station has gone to the birds.

“This place is filthy,” said Sue Yomokato, of Jackson Heights, one day last week as she waited for a train to arrive. “You have to watch where you step because of all the pigeon (droppings).”

Meanwhile, another issue of commuters’ concern with Woodside Station is the lack of shelter from the elements at the station’s upper level platforms on the No. 7 line.

Gioia and others want to see windscreens placed along the upper-level platform to protect commuters from the gusts that often rip through there.

But MTA officials say it is a dead issue and there will not be windscreens added to Woodside station.

“That issue has been discussed many times in recent years,” said an MTA spokesman. “It was determined that windscreens on the upper level would interrupt commuter traffic flow through the station. It’s been decided. Windscreens will not be added to the upper level.”

One of the most outspoken proponents of erecting windscreens at the station is Jim Condes, of Woodside.

Condes said that for several years he has been trying to coax politicians and MTA officials to add windscreens to the station’s upper platforms.

“I’ve talked to everyone,” Condes said. “The fact is, they just don’t care. It’s just not going to happen.”

Both Gioia and 37th District Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) have requested that the MTA install windscreens at the station.

In a letter Nolan sent to Lawrence Reuter, president of the MTA, about four years ago, the assemblywoman said windscreens were needed at the station because “people must brave the wind and cold,” and that the lack of shelter on the platform “created a safety hazard.”

Gioia said he does not accept the MTA’s decision not to install windscreens at the station.

“I’ve written a few letters to the MTA trying to get them to put up windscreens,” Gioia said. “They ought to reconsider. It’s a cost- effective way to improve people’s commute to work. I’m sure if they tried harder they could put up windscreens there. Look, if we can put a space probe on Mars, then the MTA can find a way to put windscreens at the Woodside station.”

Reach Reporter Tom Nicholson by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext., 157

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