L Train coalition prepares to confront agencies on behalf of North Brooklyn
Business, community and political leaders seek to ameliorate looming transit crisis
The words “New York City,” “transportation” and “crisis” have become as redundant as that “expect delays” sign that overlooks the Gowanus Expressway. Just navigating around to observe and report on Gotham’s growing transit problems gets harder every day. Lanes are closed for construction, trucks jam side streets, subways are diverted — what was once the world’s most advanced public transit system has fallen prey to the entropy of political neglect and fiscal irresponsibility.
“We’re calling this a ‘scheduled natural disaster,’” North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and L-Train Coalition organizer Paul Samulsky said after meeting with concerned Williamsburg residents, BID representatives, City Councilmember Stephen Levin and representatives from Assembly member Joe Lentol, state Sen. Brian Kavanaugh, Councilmember Antonio Reynoso and U.S. Rep. Caroline Maloney’s office in the library of the Williamsburg Hotel.
Samulsky, of course, referred to the impending 2019 closing of the Canarsie tunnel that runs underneath the East River, linking Manhattan to North Brooklyn via the L line. MTA’s plan is to close the line, used by more than 400,000 riders each weekday, for 15 months to effect repairs more quickly than could be done working with the line in operation.
MTA and DOT have agreed to meet with affected residents on a monthly basis as the scheduled closure draws nigh. Thursday, Feb. 8, will be the third of four such events. Today’s gathering is intended to plan a strategy for maximizing the L Train Coalition’s impact on that crucial first appearance in front of the agencies that have the power to ameliorate some of the pain these repairs are set to inflict on local businesses and residents.
“We want to move beyond a giant mass of people in the room who are just mad,” Coalition organizer Felice Kirby said. “That’s why we want to have a more organized conversation.”
With the Coalition already invested to the tune of 18 months researching, meeting and sharing information about mitigation with MTA, areas of especial concern had been narrowed down to include several key issues.
One of them, Grand Street, between Union and Bushwick Avenues, links Brooklyn-bound traffic coming off the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan-bound traffic headed the other way. Alternative buses connecting Bushwick’s Grand Street Station with Manhattan’s Delancey Street, along with the implementation of High Occupancy Vehicle [HOV3] lanes along the Bridge itself during rush hours are key parts of the agency’s mitigation plan.
Representing the Grand Street BID were Executive Director, Homer Hill and Program Director Natalie Mendell. Asked to comment on Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Hoan’s assessment that forty percent of businesses in the path of the shutdown anticipate a loss of 50 percent of their revenue, Hill was more sanguine: “I don’t think our members are at that level,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainly, of course. Naturally it depends on the kind of business. But most of our members serve the local community.”
Temporarily reducing or eliminating parking on the side streets — such as Leonard, Lorimer and Manhattan Streets — permitting them to bear two-way traffic was proposed as a way to ease the stress on Grand itself. Naturally that would entail moving protected bike lanes as well. Working against that approach, however, is the MTA’s desire to keep private cars out of Manhattan. Kirby related: “At the last meeting they said, ‘We don’t want any of these private vehicles jumping off the bridge and moving all over Manhattan!’ They were horrified of the idea. They want people riding on their buses.”
Without knowing exactly what cards MTA and DOT are holding, it’s difficult for the Coalition, expertise notwithstanding, to present specific requests. Said L Train Coalition organizer and Community Organizer for Stephen Levin, Benjamin Solotaire: “They [MTA and DOT] need to look at us and respect us as a group that’s done some due diligence.”
The L Train Coalition’s website can be found at http://ltraincoalition.com/.
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