Station rehab may bring in new stores

West Farms and Morris Park community leaders are hoping to bring a little more life into the commute for those who use the landmarked East 180th Street IRT train station each morning.

The station is about five months into a rehabilitation and modernization project, and community leaders are hoping to persuade the Metropolitan Transit Authority to include space for either an informational kiosk or several small businesses that will cater to commuters.

“Everyone likes to see something nice on their way to work in the morning and this should really bring some life for those commuters,” said Ivine Galarza, Community Board 6 district manager. “This brings a lot to the community. People complain about the train station, but with this beautification project, the services will be enhanced, so people will enjoy it more. This should bring it into the 21st century.”

According to the MTA, the overhaul project began on March 27. The rehabilitation includes: fixing up the entrance and fore court; replacing parts of the canopy roof, track beds, platforms and platform edges; adding new elevator access to improve circulation; and repairing electrical, mechanical, plumbing, lighting and communication equipment.

The station rehab tab is about $43 million and the expected completion date is November 2011, city officials said.

“We’ve got to give the area some life, some renewal, so hopefully people will take the time to see what’s around them,” said Bobby Ruggiero, president of the Morris Park Alliance. “It’s always been an important transit hub for our neighborhood, both for people going into Manhattan, but also people going uptown. This is the station people use to go go the Bronx Zoo, so this is going to be a big deal for the community.”

According to Ruggiero, he and others have been tracking down the project architects to see how they can incorporate into the design of the project a row of small stores—such as barber shops, coffee shops or laundries—or a small informational kiosk to help point travelers in the right direction for their commercial needs.

With the changes, Ruggiero is hoping the station can be returned to the thriving hub that it once was.

“The facade and design of the original was phenomenal, but after 70 years of decay and neglect, it is now nondescript and ignored,” he said. “Years and years ago, we had a barber shop, a shoe repair and a dry cleaner in there, so people would do their errands on their way to and from work. There’sstill potential there.”

City officials did not comment about whether designs have been set for the project renovations, or whether space can be made for retailers at the station.

Ruggiero said he is disappointed the city did not approach the community before the project began in order to gauge the needs of the area.

“It was disappointing. Here we are trying to increase business, and the city has these plans, but they didn’t look for any input from us,” he said. “But from what I’ve seen, the designs look great.”

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