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Maspeth stairs need a lift

Volunteers clean a staircase in Maspeth that residents believe needs more attention from law enforcement. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

It’s no stairway to heaven.

A staircase meant to give residents of a Maspeth neighborhood a shortcut instead gives them pause — as they wonder what lurks in the darkness.

“I don’t feel safe using those stairs even in the middle of the day,” said Marie Spencer, referring to the tall set of garbage-strewn steps leading from 65th Place to 64th Street. “You can’t see the bottom from the top or the top from the bottom, so you don’t know what you’re walking into.”

The harrowing blind curve is only one problem, according to Spencer. The Maspeth resident said the steps are in complete darkness at night with broken lamp posts serving no purpose other than providing the neighborhood’s bad element with a hidden place to hang out, drink and do drugs.

“I come home from work sometimes after midnight and I’d rather go around and add 10 minutes to my walk. I’m afraid I might get mugged or worse,” she said. “The kids are even there in the afternoon sometimes smoking something.”

Spencer also called the stairs an eyesore in an otherwise clean neighborhood, and even though a group of volunteers hired by the city Sanitation Department happened to be cleaning the stairs, Spencer said they cannot keep up with the amount of trash that accumulates.

“Look at all this broken glass,” she said, pointing to a pile of shattered glass. “It’s disgusting that this is sitting in our neighborhood.”

The office of City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) put fliers up around the neighborhood telling residents to call with complaints about garbage. Numerous phone calls led to regular cleanups at the staircase by Sanitation, but many in the area believe more attention is needed.

“I appreciate what the councilman is doing with the cleanup,” she said. “I’m glad someone is finally paying attention, but it needs more.”

Van Bramer did not return requests for comment.

Stanley Brenner, who regularly drives past the stairway but never uses it, said he thinks the 104th Precinct should patrol the area more often if the lights are not going to be fixed.

“If feel like the 104 is too busy in Ridgewood to do what’s needed here in Maspeth,” he said. “If a cop car drove by here nightly or parked here for a short time, that might be enough to keep groups of people from hanging out and doing whatever it is they do.”

Brenner said the stairs have been an ideal hangout for more than 30 years, also providing vandals with long canvases to spray offensive graffiti.

“I’m tired of looking at it,” he said.

Still, one resident said she would rather use the steps then be fearful of who is hanging out.

“It’s mostly just kids hanging out, I’ve never had a problem,” said the Maspeth resident, who chose not to give her name. “I just wish it was cleaned up and the lights were fixed because it’s really convenient.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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