Dec. 5, 2017 By Nathaly Pesantez
Elected officials, activists, and L train riders demanded today that the city present a concrete plan to the community on what will be done for North Brooklyn while the L train shuts down for repairs, scheduled 17 months from now.
The MTA and the Department of Transportation were repeatedly called on by city and state officials, small business owners, and residents in a Williamsburg rally to be more transparent and communicative in their outline for a post-L train shutdown.
The line will be down for 15 months and those who rely on it have yet to hear what the city is doing to reduce the impact.
Councilmembers Stephen Levin and Antonio Reynoso said its been many months since the MTA and DOT communicated with their offices on any type of plan relating to the shut down for residents and businesses in their districts.
“What we need is constant messaging from the Department of Transportation,” Reynoso said. “The deadline draws nearer and nearer, and information has been extremely limited to non-existent.”
The city’s plan for the 250,000 riders that use the L line to get between Brooklyn and Manhattan seems to essentially have them use other train lines, said Luke Ohlson, a senior organizer for Transportation Alternatives.
“We were told by the DOT and the MTA that they would be back to present a plan in November,” Ohlson said, which neither agency did.
For small business owners along the L train, the shutdown–beginning April 2019–is coming up sooner than most think. Many said that the city needs to have serious conversations with businesses on how to lessen the effects of the shut down on them.
“In terms of business planning, next year is like tomorrow,” said Leah Archibald, executive director of Evergreen, which helps industrial businesses in North Brooklyn. “The pending L train shut down is a big deal to the hundreds of industrial businesses we work with. It’s imperative that the city start working with us immediately.”
Homer Hill, the executive director of the Grand Street Business Improvement District, which runs from Union Avenue to Bushwick Avenue, worries that the L train repairs will be just like the years-long Second Avenue subway construction in Manhattan, which saw a hoard of businesses along the Upper East Side fighting to keep their businesses alive during the time.
While the MTA and the DOT have gone to North Brooklyn on occasion to present some transportation plans during the shut-down–like an increased bus fleet and the opening of some stations along the nearby J/M/Z lines–politicians and activists say its not enough, and are demanding that the DOT and MTA meet with the community on a monthly basis starting January 2018.
Some ideas put forth by elected leaders and activists include a dedicated bus lane on the Williamsburg Bridge, adding bus lines that run north to south, and increasing the amount of ferries and Citi Bike stations.
These ideas, in turn, could be incorporated into long-term infrastructure plans, past the L train resurfacing after repairs.
“There has to be a plan that is collaborative and comprehensive,” Levin said.
An MTA spokesperson said it is currently working with the DOT and other agencies to develop plans for additional transit options during the shutdown, and that it has made community engagement an essential priority throughout.
The agency has set a goal to have basic plans in place to share with the community by the end of 2017.