Whose subway line is it, anyway?

MTA board meets on new L train plan, with mixed reviews

Some of the crowd at the L train meeting on Tuesday (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, as Governor Cuomo gave his state of the state address, which mentioned his eleventh hour L train shutdown alternative, the Metropolitan Transit Authority did as the governor’s been demanding, holding an emergency board meeting on the state of the L train.

At this meeting, which drew a crowd of over 100 people, a mix of members of the public and media professionals as well as at least a couple of elected officials, over a dozen MTA board members took turns asking questions about Cuomo’s alternative to the shutdown. There was no vote on whether to approve it or not.

Meanwhile, a few board members, including Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, were confused about what they were there for since the alternative repair plan to the Canarsie tubes has already been spoken about as if it’s a done deal.

“Is the decision made?” asked Trottenberg. “Do we have any actual role here? I’m not hearing that we do.”

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Stuyvesant Town residents hope for less chaos on 14th St., old layout on 20th St.

Workers remove signs surrounding the L train construction zone on East 14th Street after Governor Cuomo’s announcement for an alternative plan to the shutdown. (Photo by Hermann Reiner)

By Sabina Mollot

With the dreaded L train shutdown no longer in the works, residents along the East 14th Street construction zone are now wondering if this means they can finally get a break from the endless construction, at least on Saturdays, while others are hoping the city will undo the recent reconfiguration of East 20th Street that’s led to a slew of parking tickets and towed cars.

Susan Steinberg, president of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, is among those wondering about both.

“What effect will the change have on the construction on East 14th Street?” she asked. “Did the relevant agencies just spend two years doing work they didn’t have to? Will East 14th Street still be a staging area? Will there be impacts on noise, dust and debris? Does that mean the East 20th Street redesign was not required? Can 20th Street be restored to what it was originally?”

Until those questions are answered, Steinberg said the TA has no position on the new plan.

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Bike lane network growing

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg discusses the bike lane expansion at a Flatiron press conference. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Transportation announced on December 19 that the city created 20.9 miles of protected bike lanes in 2018, expanding the bike network as cyclist fatalities also declined to a single-year-record low.

The DOT made the announcement with transportation advocates and local elected officials adjacent to the new crosstown protected bike lane on 26th Street, just north of Madison Square Park. The new protected bike lane on 29th Street is the westbound counterpart to the pair that includes the new lane on 26th Street, which heads eastbound. The two lanes are midtown’s first crosstown protected bike lanes.

Both new lanes, along with other treatments implemented by the DOT in 2018, were put in place in preparation for the upcoming L train shutdown (since cancelled!) and the majority of DOT’s projects on protected bike lanes in 2018 focused on preparations for the closure.

The new lanes on 26th and 29th Streets, which run from First to 12th Avenue, are among the new protected bike lanes that the DOT expects will be used heavily by displaced L train riders.

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Cuomo calls on MTA to hold public vote on new L train plan

Sept20 L train work site closeup

Part of the L train construction site on East 14th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who a day earlier had made a bombshell announcement that the dreaded L-pocalypse could be avoided, further argued for his alternative plan, which would limit L service during repairs but not halt it.

Cuomo, during a phone conference with reporters, called on the MTA to hold a public board meeting on the proposal, made by a team of engineers from the universities of Columbia and Cornell, and make a quick decision for it or against it. However, the call may have been more about defending the governor’s change of heart mere months before the 15-month shutdown between Brooklyn and Manhattan was slated to begin, since the MTA had already stated that it accepted the engineers’ findings.

Asked about the governor’s request, a spokesperson for the MTA referred to its statement from Thursday, which said:

“The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today accepted the recommendations of a panel of engineering experts that determined a complete closure of the L Train Tunnel is unnecessary… Work could be completed on nights and weekends only, with a single tube providing continued service in both directions during work periods.

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2018: A year of L hell, ferry launch and more

Vehicles and pedestrians squeeze between construction barriers along East 14th Street. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The year 2018 didn’t lack for major changes in the community from the transformation of East 14th Street into a (potentially full-time) construction zone to the maiden voyage of a ferry with a stop at Stuyvesant Cove to the axing of a courtyard full of beloved trees in Stuyvesant Town. There was also what appeared to be an uptick in crime perpetrated by youths and homeless men in Kips Bay as well as some political intrigue, with Congressional fixture Carolyn Maloney seeing her first serious competition in nearly a decade.

For more on the year that was, as covered by this newspaper, read on:

  1. There is no doubt at this point that 2018 was the year of L hell. (The day after Town & Village went to press, Governor Cuomo announced his alternative proposal.) Long before the dreaded L train shutdown even would begin, residents of the street have been impacted by the loss of 60 parking spaces, constant noise and clouds of dust from the vehicles going in and out of the construction area along the north side of the street, all while construction on developments goes on along the south side of the street. Local elected officials have been pushing the MTA for some concessions and have won a few so far, like better lighting along the construction barriers, sound reducing blankets and the installation of air quality monitors. But the effort has remained to reduce evening and weekend hours of work to give neighbors — some suffering from respiratory problems — a break. At one point, a lawsuit that had been filed to stop or delay the L train work due to accessibility and congestion issues was expanded to include the misery felt by residents whose apartments face the construction zone between Stuyvesant Town and the East Village.

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Governor cancels L train shutdown for alternative plan

Governor Andrew Cuomo at the announcement on Thursday (Photo via Governor Cuomo Flickr)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Governor Andrew Cuomo effectively canceled the 24/7 L train shutdown in favor of a plan that will supposedly fix the Canarsie tube through work on nights and weekends, the governor’s office announced in a press conference on Thursday.

The announcement came only a month after the governor conducted a last-minute inspection of the tunnel, despite the fact that the MTA and respective city agencies have been planning the shutdown for the last three years and the closure was scheduled to start in less than four months.

According to the New York Times, Cuomo is proposing to implement a plan that would use technology from Europe to fix the tunnel, which would allow the L to have full train service during the weekdays and would close one of the tubes on nights and weekends for the repairs.

The MTA’s acting chairman Fernando Ferrer, who was appointed by Cuomo, told the New York Times that the agency “welcomed” the plan and would be adopting it, with the project expected to take 15 to 20 months, compared to 15 months for the fulltime shutdown.

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L train neighbors slam MTA over noise, debris and mysterious goo

Dec13 L train Epstein

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein with L train construction zone neighbors and disability advocates in front of the MTA’s headquarters (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While most New Yorkers are approaching April with a sense of dread because of the start to the 15-month L-pocalypse, for those who live around the East 14th Street construction site, the nightmare has been going on already for quite some time.

Recently, local elected officials were able to secure some concessions from the MTA in response to neighbor concerns like additional lighting along the sidewalks where views of the street are obstructed by construction barriers, a commitment to install air quality monitors along the street and reopening of the sidewalk on the East Village side of the street, where stores have been cut off from foot traffic.

However, many concerns have remained, such as noisy work that goes on from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., as well as on weekends, clouds of debris that have caused some neighbors to fear for their respiratory health and equipment-packed streets that have led to an obstacle course for the disabled. Residents have also been left to wonder about the presence of an unidentified, glowing green substance in one of the many dumpsters that regularly get trucked in and out of the site.

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20th Street re-design has residents ticketed, towed and just plain ticked

The newly laid out street east of First Avenue, with two protected bike lanes, has confused drivers and worried pedestrians. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The traffic safety enhancement project along 20th Street, east of First Avenue, which has so far included creating two protected bike lanes on the north side of the street and moving a bus stop to an island outside the bike lanes, apparently isn’t making neighborhood residents feel any safer.

In fact, many residents have been complaining to Council Member Keith Powers that they’re now more afraid for their safety now that they have to cross the bike lanes to catch the bus. Additionally, at least 15 drivers have contacted Powers to say they’ve gotten tickets, usually for $115, for parking in spots that were legal up until very recently. A few people have also been towed at an additional pickup fee of up to $225.

The project, which began in October, was aimed at making the streets safer in anticipation of increased bike and pedestrian traffic to the Stuyvesant Cove ferry landing once the L train shutdown begins on April 27.

But from what Powers has been hearing, the general response has been that the work seemed unnecessary.

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MTA aiming to restore parking on E. 14th St., add pedestrian spaces

L train construction site on East 14th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

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.

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MTA announces additional service on other lines to help make up for L train shutdown

The schedule changes add up to over 1,000 additional roundtrips each week. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Last Monday, the MTA New York City Transit announced details about planned increases in subway service to help commuters who’d normally be riding the L train during the upcoming shutdown.

The additional subway service that will run during the 15-month-long shutdown for repairs and restorations will add up to over 1,000 roundtrips each week across seven subway lines, including additional service on the 7 train that was announced in September.

During weekdays, changes include:

On the G: 66 additional roundtrips; some peak trips extend to 18th Avenue, and some peak trips run between Court Sq-23rd Street and Bedford-Nostrand Avenue

On the M: 62 additional roundtrips, increased peak-hour service and overnight service extends to 96th St to Second Avenue

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Electric bus fleet won’t be ready in time for L shutdown

An electric bus similar to those that will be rolled out during the L train shutdown (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Electric buses for the new M14 SBS route for the L train shutdown won’t be in the fleet until the end of 2019, at least five months after the shutdown begins, NYC Transit officials said at a Community Board 5 meeting last week.

Fifteen of the 40 vehicles on this route will be electric articulated buses. There will be five electric and 10 hybrid diesel-electric buses for the inter-borough routes in use by April 2019, but this fleet is twice that of the M14 at 80 buses.

“Less than half of the M14 buses will be electric but these have a very long lead time to get,” said Rob Thompson of NYC Transit. “We’re throwing them out as fast as we can get them.”

New York City Transit will also be making changes to bus stops around 14th Street prior to the shutdown and Thompson noted that two stops near Union Square would be relocated within the next month to accommodate the work that DOT is doing for the shutdown.

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MTA takes a tour of L hell

New lighting and air quality monitors installed, pols also hope for improvements on noise, parking

Council Member Keith Powers was one of a few local elected officials who recently went on a walkthrough of the L train construction zone on East 14th Street with Andy Byford, president of NYC Transit. (Photo courtesy of Council Member Keith Powers)

By Sabina Mollot

With the L train shutdown now six months away, constant noise and debris have already been a part of life for residents of East 14th Street on Avenue A and east for months due to the preliminary work.

Neighbors have been vocal all along of their displeasure about the work to build the Avenue A entrance to the First Avenue subway stop and an Avenue B substation, and local elected officials have managed to win a few concessions from the MTA on their behalf. But the biggest problems, like late night construction noise and the loss of 60 parking spots, have remained.

On October 15, Council Member Keith Powers hosted a walkthrough of the 14th Street worksite and surrounding areas with NYC Transit President Byford and Council Member Carlina Rivera, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.

It was following that scenic tour that Powers said the MTA agreed to make some changes and consider others.

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About the orange bags lining 14th St.

Orange garbage bags used by the MTA (Photo by Hermann Reiner)

As if the L train construction zone on East 14th Street wasn’t already cluttered enough, over the weekend, Stuyvesant Town resident Hermann Reiner found oversized orange construction bags left at the bus stop, and, he noted, “not for the first time.”

Asked about their purpose, a spokesperson for the MTA told us that the bags were being used to discard debris from “routine” track maintenance unrelated to the ongoing construction to build the Avenue A entrance of the First Avenue L station, and that that there were no hazardous materials being collected.

In response, Reiner said it still didn’t explain why bags were left on the street.

“So why are they dumped at the bus station? It blocked the front door of the 14th Street buses,” said Reiner. “About five weeks ago the bags were on the sidewalk for about 10 days. I had called 311 to clean up; do they need a special cleanup crew?”

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Lawsuit says L train neighbors on E. 14th St. are living in Hell

Construction site outside Stuyvesant Town (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Earlier this month, another lawsuit aimed at stopping the L-pocalypse in its, well, tracks, was filed by attorney Arthur Schwartz, who said he is suing on behalf of two people living along the East 14th Street construction zone.

Schwartz, who had previously sued on behalf of residents on the west side of 14th Street, is now arguing people at the east end of East 14th Street are living in intolerable conditions due to noise and dust from the ongoing preliminary L train shutdown construction work.

“I wouldn’t want to live there,” he told Town & Village.

L train neighbors from Avenue A to B, the suit says, have “suffered physical injury to their damage to the sum of $250,000 each.” He also slammed the design of the planned 14th Street busway as “arbitrary” and “capricious.” Defendants are the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation Chair Polly Trottenberg.

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Safety enhancements coming to East 20th Street, but parking spots have been removed

Oct4 20th Street work

Markings made east of First Avenue and 20th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Friday morning, residents of East 20th Street noticed some work being done on the street between Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village on the north side of the street, specifically painting the bike lanes black and adding a double line to the middle of the street. Not to mention, a dozen parking spots were removed.

Asked about this, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation confirmed the DOT was behind the project, which involves installing protected bike lanes and enhancing safety along the route to the ferry.

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