By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A transit-focused nonprofit has enlisted the public to come up with ideas to help make the looming L train shutdown less painful, and the first of three workshops on the subject took place on Monday night at Town and Village Synagogue.
There didn’t seem to be any new ideas but rather people stressing options brought up previously, such as the street being shut down to car traffic and beefing up the supply of buses.
Paul Steely-White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said that regardless of the overall plan, the public feedback process could be a good opportunity to improve bus transit in the city.
Meanwhile, he added that the imminent shutdown will be a serious problem if it’s not met with proactive solutions beforehand.
“We’re trying to get our heads around the thought of what happens if there’s no contingency,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thinks it’ll just be ok if we do nothing.”
Attendees of the workshop were broken into groups at the workshop to discuss why they come to 14th Street and what ideas they had to handle the shutdown. A number of residents said that the greenmarket is a big draw, as well as Trader Joe’s, along with the fact that 14th Street is also a major transfer point.
“What we have is not like a real bus rapid transit system,” Steely-White said. “SBS is a little better than the regular bus service but at-level boarding is very important. It reduces dwell times and you don’t get as much bunching.”
Stuyvesant Town resident Kate Birmingham commented that improvement to city buses would be welcome in general.
“If buses go quickly they’re more of an option,” she said.
Adrian Horczak, who lives in Queens, also felt that current bus service is lacking.
“Buses are comparable to walking now,” he said.
Although Horczak lives in Queens, he said he was compelled to contribute to the discussion because 14th Street is such a major thoroughfare in the city and changes to it can impact New York as a whole, not just those who live there.
The workshops are being held in part to generate ideas for the design competition sponsored by Gothamist and Transportation Alternatives, which is accepting submissions until January 8, 2017. The competitive track will receive submissions from architects, urban planners and designers, who will be using the workshops to generate their ideas. The reader’s choice track is focused on the impacted areas outside of 14th Street, mainly in northern and eastern Brooklyn, and will accept submissions from amateur urban planners and other concerned citizens.
Transportation Alternatives Director of Organizing Tom DeVito said that the organization hopes the workshops will get people thinking about the role of community organizing in urban planning.
“(The winning design) might not get implemented word for word but it sends a message of community support for specific designs and it could be influential,” DeVito said, noting that a number of local politicians and community stakeholders are on the jury and could affect the plan that ultimately gets put into action.
Steely-White said that the organization is also trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
“This is an opportunity to meet a crisis but also to forge a new model on how we can get more capacity out of our streets,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for community planning and engagement.”
A date hasn’t been set for the next workshop yet but Steely-White said that it will probably take place on the west side.