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.
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.
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.
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