L train shutdown change sparks call for overcrowding, traffic mitigation

March 1, 2019 Paul Frangipane Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Blair Papagni, left, and Esther Bell explain how the partial L train shutdown will affect their small businesses in the area.

North Brooklyn community members stood alongside local politicians inside Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl on Friday to call for proper mitigation efforts when the L train partially shuts down on nights and weekends for more than a year.

Residents, activists, business owners and local politicians met for three years to prepare for a full closure of the L train’s Canarsie tunnel to facilitate repairs after damage from Hurricane Sandy. When Gov. Andrew Cuomo abruptly announced in January that the line only needs to be closed partially, the change also threw to the wayside multiple efforts to ease overcrowding and traffic – plans that the community says it still needs in place even in a partial L train shutdown.

“We feel that after three years of evaluation, reading studies, conversation, surveying our people, our community, that we have identified needs when there is disruption in the L train service,” said Felice Kirbey of the L Train Coalition, a group that came together to plan for the shutdown. “We do not feel that the new plan that is being proposed by the MTA adequately addresses the transportation needs of our community.”

North Brooklyn residents, business owners and politicians met at Brooklyn Bowl to call for proper mitigation efforts for the partial L train shutdown.
North Brooklyn residents, business owners and politicians met at Brooklyn Bowl to call for proper mitigation efforts for the partial L train shutdown.

The original mitigation plans included HOV-only lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge, shuttle-bus routes over the bridge, increased East River ferry service, additional bike stands and more.

“So those mitigation measures that were put in place during the full shutdown planning are all out the window now, and we need something real, not just a hope and a prayer, but some real measures that will mitigate what we anticipate to be a really serious overcrowding situation on nights and weekends,” Councilmember Stephen Levin said.

Levin, along with Assemblymember Joe Lentol, state Senator Brian Kavanagh, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, called for open dialogue with the MTA and DOT before the shutdown begins on April 27.

Fewer L trains will run after 8 p.m. on weekdays, with the tube being worked on closing at 10 p.m. There will also be 20-minute headways for overnight trains on weekdays and weekends.

Assemblymember Joe Lentol says lawmakers and the community need an open dialogue with the MTA and DOT to plan for the partial L train shutdown.
Assemblymember Joe Lentol says lawmakers and the community need an open dialogue with the MTA and DOT to plan for the partial L train shutdown.

With this plan in place, Lentol said the MTA no longer feels the original mitigations are necessary.

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“They’re not really listening to us, they’re dictating what they think is best for this community,” Lentol said.

The MTA did not respond to Brooklyn Eagle’s request for comment by deadline.

Commuters who work during off-peak hours and small business owners in the area still say that a partial shutdown will significantly affect them.

Felice Kirbey of the L Train Coalition has been working for three years alongside fellow community members, to provide a plan for the shutdown.
Felice Kirbey of the L Train Coalition has been working for three years alongside fellow community members, to provide a plan for the shutdown.

“What I hear from my staff is a real fear of, ‘How are we going to get to work?’” said Blair Papagni, owner of Jimmy’s Diner in Williamsburg and Anella in Greenpoint.

Papagni said she supports the community through gift certificates and fundraisers, but a decrease in business of 20 percent over weekends and nights from the shutdown could curtail that.

“We need to be able to have the business that continues to come in on nights, on weekends, so we can remain that person in our community that says, ‘Yes, we want to support the people that are here,’” she said.

The MTA will host four spring open houses in the West Village, Williamsburg and the East Village to meet with the community before the shutdown. The series begins on March 7 at Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard. The meeting in Williamsburg will be at Williamsburg Northside School on March 13.

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