Escalators Undergo Full Construction

The city recently approved a request to construct new escalators, advocated by the administration, parents, and students of Stuyvesant.

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The city recently approved a request to construct new escalators, advocated by the administration, parents, and students of Stuyvesant. Rather than undergoing repairments and retrofits, as have been done repeatedly in the past, the escalators will be completely removed and replaced with modern ones. The replacement of all the escalators is one of the most expensive capital improvement projects to be done in the school thus far.

The request for a replacement of the escalators became more prominent after the two-to-four escalator malfunctioned and injured several students last fall. However, there have been issues with the escalators for several years, which the administration hopes will finally be resolved with this full replacement. “I’m very glad to know that we are finally moving forward after a very long time of not having escalators that were operational, with a level of dependability that was never there,” Principal Eric Contreras said.

After hearing the concerns of members of the Stuyvesant community, Contreras met with Assistant Principal of Security, Health, and Physical Education Brian Moran, the school construction authority, the escalator manufacturer, the Division of School Facilities, the custodial engineering, and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to organize the construction.

Construction on all 14 escalators began in early November, starting with the two escalators between the third and fifth floors, and then moving upwards. Each phase of the construction should take approximately 14 weeks, or three to four months per set of escalators. The estimated time of completion for the two escalators between the third and fifth floor is by December break. The odd escalators will be done, then the even escalators, and lastly, the two-to-four escalators will be completed.

Contreras believes that the escalator reinstallation will be complete by the end of 2020. “I’m thinking that [the installers] will do two to three additional sets during the summer and then be done by the middle of the next year,” Contreras said. “The worst-case scenario, we’re looking at the end of [the] next [school] year for all 14 escalators to be replaced.”

While the escalators between the third and fifth floors are under construction, the other escalators, except for the ones between the second and fourth floors, will continue to operate as they have been to avoid hindering students in their day-to-day lives.

To ensure that the escalators will be installed in a timely matter, Contreras has asked for the bulk of the work to be done during holiday and summer breaks. “The more intensive installation will be during the summer, [when] we ask the building to be closed. We typically host summer school [...] and we will ask that they do a summer program somewhere else so that way, we can accelerate the process here,” he said.

The administration has taken steps to ensure that noise from the construction will not disturb the Stuyvesant community as much as possible. The school has assembled full barricades from floor to ceiling to be put up around the escalators under construction to minimize disruption, and has also set up a schedule for construction times. “In order to not impact instruction, almost all of the noisy work will be done between 6:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.,” Contreras said. “Some construction will happen during the day inside the barricades.” Should the noise become a problem, Contreras, Moran, and the chapter chair of UFT will communicate with the installers about the issue.

The escalators’ lack of consistency impacts students in several ways. “I don’t have [a] fear of escalators, but every time I hear a little jolt, it scares me a little bit,” said junior Rafal Chociej, who was injured in the two-to-four escalator incident. “[The construction] is just an inconvenience to us. [...] It’s more of a nuisance than anything.”

Though the construction on the escalators has resulted in more traffic in the stairwells and other difficulties, it is ultimately for a long-term safety improvement. “As a community, we’ve learned to adjust to shutdowns and moreso, we’ve begun to adapt to them,” senior and Student Union (SU) President Vishwaa Sofat said. “The brighter side of things is that with these replacements, we’re able to avoid situations like the one we saw last year, and we don’t want to have those events every year or be scared of getting on an escalator. We’re moving in the direction where we won’t have to do that.”

Junior and SU Vice President Julian Giordano hopes to keep the students aware of all the new updates on the escalators. In order to address students’ concerns on the schedule of the construction, he said, “I’ll be talking with Mr. Moran and the administration shortly so that we can get some outlined schedule for the students so that they know when the escalator work is happening, [and] so that everyone is in the loop.”

Sofat is hopeful for the student impact of the fully-functioning escalators. “The long-[term] outcome [from the construction] is that we can go back to [using] escalators so that students can use them and be able to get from class to class without worrying that they might be late for a test,” Sofat said.

Though there may have been initial complications in replacing the escalators, Contreras is looking forward to the final outcome. “I hope the short-term sacrifice is worth the long-time benefit of having new escalators with modern features, and I’m so hopeful that the impact won’t be too great,” Contreras said.