By Maria Rocha-Buschel
With preparations for the L train shutdown already months in progress, 14th Street residents are now seeing changes to create the incoming busway, increased pedestrian spaces and accommodations for bicyclists.
Residents and local business owners have also expressed concern about the shrinking sidewalk space on the south side of 14th Street right by the First Avenue station and the loss of parking in the same area due to the preliminary work by the MTA.
However, Kaitlin McCready with NYC Transit said at a recent Community Board 6 transportation committee meeting that the agency is aiming to reopen the south side of East 14th Street by the end of this month, and restore parking there in the next several months, ideally by next January.
The Union Square Partnership also sent out updates at the beginning of November, noting that implementation for a shared street on University Place will begin this month. Shared streets are roads where pedestrians and cyclists share space with slow-moving vehicles, and the shared street on University will be between East 13th and 14th Streets. The additions will include creating curb extensions on University Place and East 14th at the southeast and southwest corners, as well as at the northwest and southeast corners of East 13th Street.
Pedestrian spaces will be added to shorten the crosswalks and enhance pedestrian safety. Signage will be added to indicate a 5-mph speed limit as a traffic-calming measure, and sidewalk edged will be modified to increase accessibility. Bikeshare capacity will also be increase with the addition of more Citi Bike docks and additional bike parking facilities will be added as well. The DOT noted in a flyer that these specific changes are temporary to address the shutdown and treatments will only remain after undergoing the appropriate review.
Representatives from the MTA and DOT were also at the recent Community Board 6 meeting to offer additional updates and answer questions residents might have, and one concern that Stuy Town resident and CB6 member Larry Scheyer raised was access to MetroCard vending machines for residents of Stuy Town, Peter Cooper and other nearby neighborhoods whose closest access to the machines is the First Avenue station.
“That’s something we’re looking at now and we’ll be answering that with a few different solutions,” McCready said. “One that we’re looking at will be that we will have mobile sales vans, a schedule of those going around those stations in particular. A more permanent solution is still being worked out.”
Board member Gene Santoro noted that an MTA representative had indicated in a previous task force meeting with the borough president earlier this year that the station would actually remain open for this purpose, but McCready said that this is not the case. McCready also noted that Transit has been looking at additional locations such as stores that are open 24 hours as a possibility to include a MetroCard vending machine, noting that the locations need to be secure.
“I’m really stunned that you still haven’t figured out how you’re going to sell MetroCards or allow people to refill them,” Peter Cooper Village resident Anne Greenberg added. “It’s a big problem for those of on the East Side regardless of this.”
Greenberg also noted that it seemed like an oversight that the MTA and DOT wouldn’t be including a pop-up informational booth in Stuyvesant Town, and McCready said that it was an oversight in recent materials that were sent out that a location farther east wasn’t included but one would definitely be included in the future.
McCready added that the MTA has been working with Stuyvesant Town management during the preliminary work and using one of the property’s security booths is a possibility for a pop-up location.