By Maria Rocha-Buschel
With the L train slowdown officially underway, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents and others who rely on the train are already enduring service cuts and crowding. However, the bright light at the end of the tunnel, especially for residents living farther east, along with a safe subway system, is the promise of a new entrance at Avenue A and East 14th Street for the First Avenue station.
Town & Village has reported in the last five years that neighborhood residents, transit advocates and local elected officials had been asking the MTA to consider a new entrance at least since 2014 and were denied on more than one occasion, but the request is actually almost as old as Stuyvesant Town itself.
A Stuy Town resident who moved into the complex when it opened in 1947 wrote a letter to the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Corporation, which operated the L at the time, asking if the transit agency would expand the First Avenue station by building an entrance at Avenue A. Resident Reginald Gilbert of 625 East 14th Street argued that pressure on the station from the influx of new residents made the new entrance a necessity.
“With the increase of tenants in (Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village), the First Avenue station is becoming more and more crowded during the rush hours with passengers jamming up in the first cars going west and the rear cars coming east,” Gilbert wrote in his letter, which T&V also published in the November 27, 1947 issue. “This condition exists with only a small portion of (the complex) occupied and will be aggravated with the influx of new residents during the next few months.”
The Chief Engineers office of the BMT told Town & Village at the time that planned station rehabilitation did not include the construction of a new entrance, but did not give any other specific reason for declining to make the change to the station.
Although likely not the only other time after that letter that the issue was raised to the transit agency, T&V noted that a new entrance was requested again almost 20 years later in 1964. By then, the subway was being operated by the New York City Transit Authority, but the agency still declined to build an entrance at Avenue A for the station.
This time, T&V said, the agency blamed money. Transit Authority chief John Gilhooley said in response to the request that the work would cost the city nearly $750,000 and the funding was not available, adding that the TA’s engineering department had “made a thorough study” of the area before coming to the $750,000 figure.
The Federal Republican Club’s subway committee chairman George Comet had argued to the agency that the new entrance was needed because of new apartments that were being built south of East 14th Street. Comet also noted that he had requested the TA consider building the entrance 10 years previously but the agency dismissed the suggestion.
Members of Community Board 6 had asked the MTA to consider the idea at the beginning of 2014 and were shot down. Representatives from the transit authority had told the community board’s transportation committee that the MTA wasn’t planning a feasibility study for the new entrance, which would be an “expensive proposition.”
By the end of that year, though, the MTA had changed its mind and agreed to the station improvements. Rosie Mendez, who was the Councilmember for District 2 at the time, said following the announcement that she had been pushing for the new entrance since working for her predecessor, Councilmember Margarita Lopez.
The plans for the new entrance were included in $300 million infrastructure improvements for the L line that were announced in December 2014, and then-Councilmember Dan Garodnick told Town & Village that the new entrance at Avenue A would cost $40 million. DNAinfo (RIP) reported in 2015 that another $59.1 million had been set aside to make the First Avenue station ADA compliant.
Construction ultimately began for the L train tunnel work, and the long-asked-for Avenue A entrance, in 2017.