11 trapped in Wantagh LIRR elevator

New Wantagh LIRR elevator traps 11 commuters — twice


Eleven commuters, trapped in a stuck elevator at the Wantagh Long Island Rail Road station last Friday, were rescued by Wantagh firefighters, who helped them out of the newly installed lift by passing a ladder down through an emergency hatch in the ceiling. This was the second time in a week that the Fire Department was called to extricate 11 riders from the elevator.

Department spokesman Kevin Regan said that the first call came on March 5 at 7:40 p.m. The second came at 4:06 p.m. on March 9, he said. In both cases, the elevator got stuck between the station’s street and platform levels. Once the occupants climbed out the emergency hatch, firefighters guided them to safety by directing them to step over wires and other elevator operations equipment atop the elevator.

On Monday, a sign on the elevator door said it was “temporarily out of service.” LIRR officials said that employees of the elevator specialist Kone were on the scene later that day to try to determine why it failed. They also said that the general contractor for the larger construction project at the station, Fortunato Sons Contracting Inc., of Bohemia, would assume the cost of repairs.

A woman who answered the phone at the office of Fortunato Sons said that company officials had no comment.

A Monday-morning commuter described the malfunctioning elevator as a “real pain.” “I was supposed to catch the 9:27 a.m. train, and I didn’t because the elevator is out of service,” said Janine Fulham of Wantagh, a daily LIRR rider. “I had to walk to the other side, and I missed the train.”

Regan said that Metropolitan Transportation Authority police were on the scene during the March 5 incident, as were Nassau County police, police medics and a Wantagh F.D. ambulance, but there were no injuries. Still, the construction fence around the station had to be cut open each time, and calls were made to the LIRR to slow incoming trains during the rescues of the stuck commuters.

Becoming ADA-compliant

The elevator — the first in the Wantagh station’s 50-year history — was just installed Feb. 26, during Phase one of a $27.8 million MTA-financed platform-replacement project. All station construction projects now include elevators in order to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, LIRR officials said. The first phase of the project also included the replacement of the easternmost sections of the platform and the construction of a platform-level waiting room.

Sub-freezing temperatures and high winds caused some damage to pipes under the platform and the waiting room doors, temporarily delaying the completion of Phase one. The platform was also damaged when contractors installed a $2.4 million automated snow and ice melting system. The damaged areas have been patched, LIRR officials said, and once the rest of the 12-car platform is replaced, it will be coated and sealed to give it a uniform appearance.

The snow-melting system consists of a set of boilers that heat a water/glycol mixture and then pump it through a grid of pipes embedded in the concrete platform. The system has temperature and precipitation sensors, which automate the operation.

“The automated snow/ice melt system kept the platform free of snow and ice during “the March 7 Nor’easter” LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “By Thursday morning, the platform was clear and dry.”

Phase two of the two-year project began on Feb. 26, and is expected to be completed this fall. Included in this phase are a new, wider escalator for the convenience of passengers carrying luggage and other bulky items, new platform lighting, a center staircase, a new canopy and the replacement of the rest of the platform. These are the first significant upgrades since the station was built, LIRR officials said. The new waiting room is scheduled to have temporary replacement doors installed this month, and permanent ones later in the spring.

Fortunato Sons is doing $17.2 million of the reconstruction work, while the LIRR’s portion of the project is $10.6 million.

Roughly 6,000 riders use the Wantagh LIRR station each day, according to railroad spokeswoman Sarah Armaghan. Commuters should remain aware that until the project is completed, both staircases adjacent to Wantagh Avenue, the center staircase and the escalator will remain closed, as will 15 parking spaces under the viaduct. The staircases at the east end of the station, adjacent to Beech Street, have reopened.