The Housing Development Board (HDB) announced on Sunday that they are committing $550 million to upgrade the living environment to rejuvenate three middle-aged estates, namely Pasir Ris, Tampines and Hougang. More shops will be added in Pasir Ris and a revamped stadium in Tampines are some of the upcoming projects in these estates. While residents there can expect better living conditions, residents in Mei Ling and Stirling View can only envy at their fortune and continue to "suffer" in silence with some less than desired living environments.
Slopes, Slopes, Slopes-the common feature in Queenstown
The Mei Ling/Mei Chin/Stirling View district of Queenstown is built on top of the former Hong Lim Hill. Cemeteries, farms and villages used to populate the hill before a major excavation and land acquisition took place in the 1950s. In those days, technology was not advanced and the hill was not completely flattened. Dwarf-sized knolls spread across the estate and Mei Ling was built on one of them. Like other districts in Queenstown, some former residents of the village as well as victims of the Bukit Ho Swee fire moved into flats in Mei Ling. Even as the next generation of wealthier young adults, who had grown up in Queenstown, were heading towards newer estates to establish their own households, their parents, who preferred the comforts of the familiar Queenstown, did not follow and stay behind. Today, they have all grown old.
Tampines and Pasir Ris are just in their early 30s. They remain sturdy, attractive and youthful. Most of the flats are already wheel chair accessible.
The iconic Tampines estate
The Youthful and Vibrant Pasir Ris
Many parts of Queenstown are in their late 40s and early 50s. The universal provision of public housing meant that many flats in Queenstown have basic amenities only. What makes the situation more urgent and serious is the high proportion of elder persons aged 65 and above. Do they have the physical ability to scale stairs and slopes?
Blk 165 and 166 in Stirling Road Have No Lifts at Ground Floor.
Residents are offered Lift Upgrading Programme but many of the elder persons, who are without a regular income are unable to afford the upgrading costs. Hence, the quota required for LUP to go ahead may not be reached.
Flight of Stairs to Mei Ling Market
This short flight of stairs may look "inconceivably" easy for many younger persons in Tampines and Pasir Rias. However, they posed a severe challenge to the older residents in Stirling View. As a result, due to a lack of demand, this market has declined tremendously in the past 10 years. MyQueenstown Team understands that an upgrading plan to install lifts are scrapped due to "high costs." Perhaps, elder persons are deemed to be economically inactive and unimportant.
The most popular bus stop in Stirling View
This sheltered walkway will lead Stirling View residents to a bus stop, which brings them from Queenstown and Commonwealth MRT and brings them to Harbourfront, Bukit Merah Central, Telok Ayer and Orchard. Yet, elder persons are required to scale more than 50 steps before reaching their home every day. No lifts, no elevators and no wheelchair accessible pavement. You can imagine how many times an elder person has to stop before proceeding on her quest to "conquer" the stairway.
It's either stairs or long walk home
Blue-With Stairs... Red-Without Stairs
Residents in Mei Ling Street have a similar set of problem. The bus stop in the above picture brings residents to and from Red Hill and Anchorpoint. Residents who are physically unfit to climb the stairs will have to walk along the slopes around Mei Ling Street before getting home. The journey is characteristically long.
Mdm Lian who is in her 60s
Mdm Lian is one of those residents who faced difficulties scaling the stairs from Stirling View. A devout Christian, she has to scale along the stairs before boarding a bus to reach her Church.
MyQueenstown Team cannot ignore the fact that political reasons may come into play when HDB decides to commit huge sums in younger estates while appearing "oblivious" to the genuine needs and concerns among Mei Ling/Stirling View residents. One can only pray for good luck and continuous good health for these residents so that they can continue to scale the stairs for the rest of their lives.
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