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Kew Gardens station gets elevator for riders

To some people, it is just an elevator at the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike station on the E and F subway lines. To parents with strollers and small children, it makes traveling easier. To the neighborhood's wheelchair users, though, it means getting around in half the time.

With a ding, the new Metropolitan Transportation Authority elevator's doors opened at street level for the official ribbon-cutting in front of the office building at 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, making it the 67th subway station — the 14th in Queens — that is accessible to disabled riders, out of 468 stations citywide.

"If I'm going to New York Presbyterian, I take the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station, then the crosstown bus to First Avenue, then another bus uptown. It takes anyplace from two to three hours. And then I have to come back," Silva said.

Taking the subway had not previously been an option for Silva. Not needing to navigate a mile down Queens Boulevard to the train, "I would say it'd take half to three quarters" off the travel time, she said.

The new elevator is one of three at the station — the other two ferry riders from the mezzanine level down to the subway platforms — and MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander trumpeted the agency's completion of the project two years ahead of schedule.

"We are proud to be two years ahead of the schedule that we had set in 1994 to create 67 stations that are accessible to everyone," Sander said.

The $13.9 million renovation project at the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike station began in July 2006 and also included wheelchair accessible station booth windows, hand rails, public telephones, platform warning strips and the minimization of platform edge gaps.

After the ribbon was cut for the elevator, Silva and other wheelchair riders obligingly rode down to the mezzanine and back in the elevator, sharing the space with elected officials and a mother whose baby slept soundly in a stroller through the smooth trip.

Queens Connection, which provides borough-wide transportation information, referrals and advocacy for senior citizens, is on the second floor of the office building along with the Kew Gardens Community Center, serving another population that cannot always move around with ease.

"I think there's no question that this'll be a tremendous help for people with disabilities, and will help people get around," said Queens Connection Director Pat Dolan.

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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