By Sabina Mollot
As crowds spilled into the First Avenue L train station during rushhour on Monday morning, two local City Council members stressed the need for an additional subway entrance on Avenue A.
While last December, the MTA announced that a new entrance was part of its capital plan, Council Members Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez said that they want to make sure the project remains a priority for the agency.
“We are raising our voices to make sure it stays in the capital plan. It deserves to stay,” said Garodnick. “Nothing is done until it’s done,” he added.
Late last year, the MTA drafted a $32 billion capital budget, which was rejected by a state board, and it’s currently facing a $15 billion deficit.
Mendez noted that a new entrance has been a priority of hers since she worked for her predecessor in the Council, Margarita Lopez, who also had pushed for it alongside then-State Assembly Member Steven Sanders. On Monday, as commuters continued to file into the station, Mendez gestured their way, saying, “You can see it’s very well needed.”
Due to the growing population in Williamsburg, in recent years ridership on the L line has soared. Since 1998, there’s been a 98 percent increase with 300,000 straphangers riding the train every day. Over 49,000 of those straphangers use the First Avenue or Bedford Avenue station.
Additionally, with a residential development being built along East 14th Street between Avenues A and B, and another 100-unit building in the works at the former Mary Help of Christians Church site on East 11th Street, Mendez said, “It’s going to exacerbate the situation.”
Along with crowding on the platform, which can delay trains — or people’s exit in an emergency — another complaint of L train users is that the station is not accessible to the disabled. A new entrance however would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act by including an elevator to the platform.
As to how big the new entrance would be, Garodnick and Mendez said they didn’t know. “It hasn’t been designed yet,” said Garodnick, adding that the first order of business was simply to make sure the plan doesn’t slip through the cracks. “It’s just a question of funding,” he said.
In December, the MTA proposed $300 million in infrastructural upgrades along the L line, including the new entrances and elevators at Avenue A and Bedford Avenue. According to Garodnick, the Avenue A entrance alone would come with a $40 million price tag.
Other proposed improvements in the plan include three new power substations, which would allow for two additional trains per hour. That’s a 10 percent increase in service or 2,200 customers per hour.
The MTA said at the time it would seek the federal funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new Core Capacity grant program, which was formed specifically to address issues of system capacity.
Partial funding for the improvements had been included in the MTA’s proposed 2015-2019 Capital Program. Fifty million dollars for the development of the project was previously included in the 2010-2014 Capital Program.
When asked for comment about funding for the new entrance, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the agency has not yet gotten an answer from the FTA. Nor did he know when the MTA could expect one. But, he added, “It is something we are committed to, which is why we are seeking federal funds.”
Another MTA rep said the agency is “waiting for guidance” before completing a revised capital plan.
Meanwhile, a five-weekend-long project began last weekend for necessary maintenance and repair work along the line.
During these weekends, the L train will be suspended between 8th Avenue in Manhattan and Lorimer Street in Brooklyn, with the MTA suggesting the alternative options of the M14A bus and free shuttle buses. Work is scheduled to conclude on May 18. More details are available at mta.info.