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East River gondola plan gains attention ahead of L train shutdown

‘Would Be Hugely Useful and Important to Brooklyn’

May 6, 2016 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A rendering of the East River Skyway. Rendering courtesy of Daniel Levy
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With the L train shutdown looming on the horizon, one man has a plan that could provide relief to hundreds of thousands of commuters who use the L train daily.

Daniel Levy, president of the real estate website CityRealty, has proposed an aerial gondola system dubbed the “East River Skyway” that would connect Williamsburg to Lower Manhattan.

“The idea originated with seeing the increase in development in North Brooklyn, seeing the congestion on the L train and looking for a way to alleviate that congestion,” Levy told the Brooklyn Eagle. “With the news of the L train shutdown, having that additional capacity over the East River in the form of this system would be hugely useful and important to Brooklyn.”

According to Levy, the tramway will have the capacity to transport 200,000 daily passengers, and each individual gondola car would be able to carry 35 to 40 passengers at a time.

The entire system would move about 5,000 passengers per hour in each direction.

In comparison, the L train transports about 400,000 people daily, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.   

The average cross-river transit time on the East River Skyway would be less than five minutes, and gondolas would leave each station every 30 seconds. An unlimited ride card would be available at roughly $25 a month.

Levy originally planned on having just one station on the Williamsburg waterfront, but after learning about the L train shutdown, he said he is considering creating a second station further inland at the Washington Plaza Bus Terminal at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge.

The Manhattan station would be built above Sara D. Roosevelt Park at Delancey and Chrystie streets in Lower Manhattan and would allow commuters to easily transfer to the subway.

Levy told the Eagle that the project will cost roughly $134 million and that he is looking to fund the project entirely through private investors.

If Levy’s project comes to fruition, the East River Skyway would join the Roosevelt Island Tram as the second tramway in the city. The Roosevelt Island tram also spans the East River and connects Roosevelt Island to the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

In 2006, then-Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented a plan for an elevated gondola system linking Brooklyn to Manhattan by way of Governors Island, but the proposal never gained momentum.

Levy provided the Eagle with a timeline for his East River Skyway.

“Another really amazing thing about this technology is that gondola systems are typically built very, very quickly,” Levy told the Eagle. “Virtually every system built like this in an urban environment has been built in less than three years. We can very much be up and running in time for the L train shutdown. That’s a very realistic target for us.”

With plans for L train construction work to start as early as 2019, the pressure is on for the MTA to find an alternative option for commuters.

In response to the East River Skyway plan, Ortiz told the Eagle that the MTA is “committed to working with the city on examining all viable travel options.”


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