Editorial: We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this will work. How about you?

We will freely admit that the governor’s slamming the brakes on a plan that would have made 250,000 straphangers miserable for 15 months (instead proposing significantly less misery for that time or perhaps five months longer) felt like a white knight rescue.

But.

Andrew Cuomo is no knight. Nor is he, for that matter, an engineer.

Andrew Cuomo is a politician, and the experts he’s relying on for all this newfound information also have no experience with the subway they’re proposing to fix. So please forgive us if we’re not phone banking for Cuomo’s 2020 presidential campaign just yet. Especially since it’s still curious as to why the famously calculating governor would take such an incredible risk. The election against his formidable primary challenger is over, after all. NYC Transit President Andy Byford believes he is the one who would be on the hook if this plan fails spectacularly and he is of course right, but so would Cuomo since we all know he’s the one strong-arming all of this.

But then, does he even need to twist anyone’s arm to avert a transit disaster? Obviously, no one wanted the L train shutdown to happen. Installing a fleet of buses and ferries and bikes would never be enough of a substitute for one of the most highly utilized train routes. We all knew this. Hey, it wasn’t called the L-Pocalypse for nothing.

But.

The MTA had successfully convinced New York that the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy was a disaster waiting to happen and there was simply no other way but a full shutdown for 15 months or partial one for three years. Will Cuomo’s less extensive rehabilitation of the tunnels, leaving old bench wall and corroded cables where they are, be enough of a substitute? Well, we certainly hope so. And one must acknowledge that with the damaged Canarsie tubes to be worked on over the weekends and nights if the alternative plan goes through, commuters aren’t out of the woods just yet. But it’s still better than no service between Manhattan and Brooklyn and that’s why it’s hard not to keep harping on the question of: Why wasn’t this obvious sooner to the people who maintain the subway? Before all this money was spent on one plan and all this time spent by the MTA and other agencies assuaging community members of their perfectly rational fears. And why did the MTA wait so long anyway to determine that the original plan of a shutdown to do more extensive repairs and renovations was necessary if the L train tunnels, which are still being used today, were so dangerous to leave as they were? With such contradictory logic, one can begin to understand the desire of the governor to turn to foreign rail systems and Elon Musk for inspiration.

At this point, there isn’t much anyone can do but take a wait-and-see approach and of course keep demanding answers, as well as remind the powers at be that people who live near the impacted L train stations have rights. We definitely think the MTA could stand to eliminate its evening and weekend hours at the construction zone along East 14th Street.

We also agree with Council Member Keith Powers, who has pointed out that finding ways to ease crowding on the L line should still be a priority, and shutdown mitigation proposals like the Williamsburg to Stuyvesant Cove ferry and Select Bus Services for 14th Street are still good ideas worth investing in.

Town & Village welcomes all feedback and suggestions pertaining to the L train at editor@townvillage.net and as comments online on related articles on this website.

2 thoughts on “Editorial: We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this will work. How about you?

  1. Of the 3 largest subway systems in the world, only NYCT runs 24×7 and it is the oldest of the three. (The other two were substantially rebuilt after WWII; NYCT has not been.) Which means that the other systems, and the 3 cities where this proposed method are used, all have weekend and/or overnight periods where maintenance, repairs and enhancements can be conducted with no travel disruptions. Those other systems also enjoy a larger percentage of their operating expenses paid for by Government subsidies as opposed to NYCT where almost 2/3rds of the expenses come from the fare box – the highest percentage of any public transit system in the world.

    Which means that the professors who recommended what they believe to be an ideal solution may not have recommended a realistic solution. Their failure to note the need to retain at least some of the expanded transportation options, as noted by Council Member Keith Powers, is the most obvious example of idealism being unrealistic.

    For those of us who live on 14th St (often referred to as the “war zone” by those of us who have been barricaded and disturbed by the construction) for the past 18 months, the possibility that it might last 5 months longer than originally proposed is intolerable.

    Has anyone considered splitting the difference? What happens if the bench wall is not replaced during a total shutdown of the L? Certainly, that should last a lot less than 15 months. It could, in fact, last as little as 5 months (3 shifts per day in place of one overnight; no lost time to restate materials at the beginning of the shift then once again move them to prevent interference with scheduled service, etc.). That also spreads the burden of the shutdown between the L train riders who benefit from it and the residents of 14th St that suffer from the construction.

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