VIDEO: L train weekend closure affects local businesses

April 24, 2015 By Dipti Kumar Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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With more track work scheduled for the L train, local businesses in Williamsburg are seeing a marked decline in their weekend sales.

The construction affects the section between Eighth Avenue in Manhattan and Lorimer Street in Williamsburg and is planned to continue to mid-May.

On one end, the transportation construction creates an unwanted obstacle for businesses along the L train’s route; however, the MTA says the construction is necessary and will prevent future holdups.

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“The primary purpose of this work is to replace the railroad tracks,” Adam Lisberg, head spokesman for the MTA said. He added that the tracks will be “reinforced with concrete,” which will help make the tracks more “resilient and better able to handle the extra heavy traffic.”

However, businesses located on the Williamsburg side aren’t too happy with the weekend closures. For Bernadette Libonate, owner of Milly & Earl, a boutique store located steps away from the Graham Avenue stop on the L train, business comes mostly from tourists who have read about her store in tourist guides.

“Unfortunately it’s a big chunk of business in terms of how much they are contributing in a weekend. It will impact my business pretty severely this spring,” said Libonate.

These repairs come at a time when the MTA is seeing an increase in ridership.

A recent study done by the MTA puts ridership numbers at an all-time high. The report detailed that the “subway system carried more than 6 million customers on 29 weekdays in the last 4 months of 2014.”

Small businesses like Libonate’s are working together to create more awareness among customers about the ongoing work.

Lexi Oliveri who owns Antoinette, a vintage boutique on Grand Street in Williamsburg, has collaborated with Libonate and another store, Slapback, to give customers a $2.75 discount, the price for a ride on the subway.

“They [elected officials] had mentioned that they were going to try to give us promotional money or do some sort of promotion for us — put up signs, posters for us — we haven’t seen anything. We feel abandoned; they haven’t helped us at all,” said Oliveri.

The MTA says it has put alternatives in place to ease the burden of commuting in and out of Brooklyn.

“We’re running a special shuttle bus at Bedford Avenue stop that circles around. We’re doing an extra service on the M train into Manhattan, [so] people who can get to the M can also get in. We are also not doing any of the work on the 7 train that people have complained about, so it can go up to Queens and take the 7 across,” said Lisberg.

The mobile car service Uber has also offered a $5 flat rate for anyone who wants a ride to a location situated along the L train stops, according to an official statement by Josh Mohrer, New York City general manager for the company.

For those who love food, some of the vendors from Smorgasburg, the weekend food market, have arranged shuttles to get customers to their location in Williamsburg.

In the meantime, work continues underground as workers lay out new tracks.

“We’ll do this as quickly and as efficiently as we can.  But the only thing worse than having a subway line that doesn’t work for a couple of weekends, is a subway line people can’t rely on and won’t go to take,” said Lisberg.

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