L Train Coalition wants more options
by Benjamin Fang
Mar 05, 2019 | 2644 views | 0 0 comments | 122 122 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at the beginning of the year that the full L train shutdown was scrapped, many people cheered the decision.

But not members of the L Train Coalition, which represents small businesses and transit advocacy groups in the north Brooklyn community.

Prior to the governor’s last-minute reprieve, the L Train Coalition worked for three years to evaluate, study, survey and discuss mitigation plans for the planned 15-month L train shutdown between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The mitigation plans, which were developed by both the MTA and Department of Transportation (DOT), included increasing subway service on other lines, an HOV lane on the Williamsburg Bridge, more ferries, and protected bike paths on Grand Street and 13th Street.

With Cuomo’s announcement, those plans were either scrapped or put on hold.

Under the new repair plan, the L train will function normally during weekdays and rush hours. However, during nights and weekends, commuters will have to wait 20 minutes or more for an L train.

“We do not feel that the new plan that is being proposed by the MTA adequately addresses the transportation needs of our community,” said Felice Kirby, a leader of the L Train Coalition.

In addition to bringing back the mitigation plans for nights and weekends, the coalition also asked for more information about the health risks involved in the silica dust that is produced during construction.

Kirby and other business leaders said the L train slowdowns have already impacted businesses that thrive on nights and weekends.

“We anticipate that the hit will be worse when tourists and visitors to the city on weekends know that there is limited opportunity to get into north Brooklyn,” she said.

On Friday, the area’s local elected officials convened at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg to ask the city and state for more alternatives, such as a shuttle bus and a dedicated ferry.

“It’s not a sleepy town where you close down after 9 to 5,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “North Brooklyn is one of the most active communities at night.”

The day before, state lawmakers met with MTA officials in Albany. Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said among those who spoke were Ronnie Hakim, managing director of the MTA, and Janno Lieber, chief development officer and president of MTA Capital Construction.

Lentol said they asked the MTA not only for more ferry service, but for the HOV lane on the Williamsburg Bridge and eight cars on the G train moving forward.

The assemblyman also requested police on L train platforms during the nights and weekends when service is slowed.

“We don’t know what happens at night,” Lentol said. “We have somebody who wanders into the subway all the time and can commit sexual assault.”

State Senator Brian Kavanagh added that he wants the MTA and DOT to discuss adding transportation measures before the work officially begins.

“We’re calling for the MTA and DOT to come back to the table and work with this community to get this right,” he said, “before the first evening when there are no trains.”

Specifically on Grand Street, Councilman Antonio Reynoso highlighted the need for more street safety improvements. According to advocates from Transportation Alternatives, there have been four deaths in the last five years on the corridor alone.

Reynoso called on DOT to finish their work creating a protected bike path.

“The plan that was implemented for the L train work,” he said, “it’s just not finished.”

Business leaders also chimed in on the effect of the closures. Blair Papagni, owner of Jimmy’s Diner in Williamsburg and Anella in Greenpoint, said she’s already heard concerns from her own staff.

“What I hear from my staff is a real fear of, how are we going to be able to get to work?” she said. “This is an already long commute that we have.”

Esther Bell, owner of The West Brooklyn on Union Avenue, said her bar has already seen a 20 percent drop in sales on weekends when subway service was interrupted.

Paul Samulski, president of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said establishments in the food and beverage industry, as well as nightlife and hospitality, will continue to feel the impact.

“The plan we’re currently being forced to accept is definitely not good enough,” he said.

In a statement, MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek said the new L project provides far better service for its 275,000 riders, including same levels of service early mornings, middays and both rush hours.

In addition, the MTA is providing new and enhanced bus routes to ensure customers can reach alternate subways, as well as increased service on the G, M and 7 trains.

“We’re continuing to solicit input in a series of public meetings,” Tarek said, “and we’re looking forward to working with our customers, neighbors and other stakeholders in the days ahead.”

The four open houses scheduled in Brooklyn and Manhattan, all from 6 to 8 p.m., are Thursday, March 7 at Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard; Wednesday, March 13 at Williamsburg Northside School; Tuesday, March 19 at Grand Street Campus High School; and Monday, April 8 at the 14th Street Y.

“The mayor hasn’t decided what to do with the city-controlled mitigation plans on the bridge an on 14th Street,” said City Hall press secretary Eric Phillips in a statement. “As we learn more and more details every day from the MTA about its closure of the L train, we’ll continue to design efforts and review existing plans to help affected riders.”
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