Lawsuit aims to stop L-pocalypse

Apr5 14th St coalition Schwartz Prentiss

Attorney Arthur Schwartz (pictured with Edith Prentiss, a disabled rights activist) says disabled commuters aren’t being considered, nor are the neighborhoods that will be dealing with chaotic traffic. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday morning, a coalition of neighborhood groups sued in a Manhattan Federal Court in an attempt to stop the planned L train shutdown starting a year from now. The suit accuses the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Administration of ignoring the needs of disabled riders along the L line, and disregarding the communities who’ll be dealing with constant congestion from diesel-spewing buses.

According to the attorney representing the groups, dubbed “the 14th Street Coalition,” Arthur Schwartz, the FTA “has failed to enforce compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) even though the nearly $1 billion project is being federally funded.” The MTA and DOT meanwhile, he said have failed to prepare a required Environmental Impact Statement, which he said would have compelled the agencies to be more responsive to community input.

The suit aims to halt the work as well as its federal funding until the plans do something about the lack of elevators in each L station and about the expected environmental impacts from substituting the L train with significantly expanded above ground mass transit.

The plan calls for creating a 14th Street “busway” between Third and Eighth Avenues going west and from Ninth to Third Avenues going east. Car traffic will not be able to cross anywhere along the busway. Access-A-Ride will be included along with emergency vehicles. The plan is to enforce these rules during “peak” hours. A constant fleet of shuttle buses will be traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge and there will also be a protected bike lane on East 13th Street.

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Bus stop shelters on East 14th Street removed, will be relocated

Bus stop removal1

The MTA said the removals were because of impending work. (Photos by Hermann Reiner)

By Sabina Mollot

On July 1, an eagle-eyed reader informed us an unannounced removal of M14 bus stop shelters had occurred that day and the day before from Avenues A to B. We reached out to the Department of Transportation for an explanation and the agency responded via email Thursday evening to say the stops were removed due to impending work, but would be relocated this week.

The agency didn’t say what project the impending work is for, but Council Member Dan Garodnick said he was told by the MTA it had to do with the looming L train line repairs, which include building an Avenue A subway entrance.

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More buses promised during L train shutdown

For Stuyvesant Town and East Village residents, a bright spot of the looming L train shutdown is a new subway entrance on Avenue A, as pictured here in a newly released rendering.

For Stuyvesant Town and East Village residents, a bright spot of the looming L train shutdown is a new subway entrance on Avenue A, as pictured here in a newly released rendering.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents affected by the imminent L train closure got a visit from New York City Transit officials last Wednesday in a meeting organized by Community Board 3 and 6, held at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

At the meeting, NYC Transit reps promised a beefed up bus fleet around Stuyvesant Town to deal with the planned L train shutdown.

Agency Operations Planning Chief Peter Cafiero said, “If there is no service in Manhattan, then we need to build up the bus fleet. We could be implementing what I’m calling the M14 SBS. It would serve Stuyvesant Town more directly by looping up to East 20th Street.”

This was the second of what the agency has said would be a number of meetings to both get feedback and inform the community about the planned shutdown, which won’t start until 2019. The agency also said at this recent meeting that they will be hosting a meeting some time in the fall just for Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village residents.

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Hoylman bill would bring back SBS lights

SBS bus (Photo via Wikipedia)

SBS bus (Photo via Wikipedia)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced legislation on Monday that would allow New York City Transit to use purple flashing lights on SBS buses.

“It’s hard to believe we need Albany approval to change the color of lights on select buses in New York City, but we do,” Hoylman said. “That said, it’s important we pass legislation that enables select buses to use purple colored lights to allow thousands of riders, many of them my constituents, to distinguish from a distance SBS buses from traditional buses, giving riders time determine whether they need to pre-pay the SBS fare or take a local bus. Plus, purple lights won’t cause confusion with emergency vehicles because they don’t use this color.”

The legislation comes about a month after Community Board 6 passed a resolution that supported the return of the flashing lights at the full board meeting on April 9.

Assemblymember Micah Kellner introduced a bill in the State Assembly in March, 2013 to amend vehicle and traffic law and correct the issue. Hoylman’s bill is the same as the one in the Assembly and the legislation would add a new paragraph to the law so that the MTA was permitted to use flashing purple lights for buses on SBS routes. The senator’s district includes significant portions of the M15 SBS route, which runs on First and Second Avenue, as well as the M34 SBS route, which runs crosstown on 34th Street.

Stuyvesant Town resident and CB6 board member Lawrence Scheyer has been a strong supporter of the return of the lights because of the hassle that a lack of lights has caused for both express and local bus riders. Many proponents for the lights have argued that the short warning time for an approaching SBS bus makes the curbside payment system more difficult.

“Especially during long waits for buses on dark and stormy and frigid nights, the first sighting of the SBS bus’ signature twin beacons of blinking light in the in the distance was reassuring to all waiting bus passengers,” Scheyer said. “At major stops where riders wait at different locations for local or Select buses, such early warning provided ample opportunity for everybody, calmly, to pre-pay at curbside kiosks and obtain receipts.”

Flashing lights were utilized on SBS buses from the time they were put into service in 2008 until late 2012. Elected officials from Staten Island pressured then-MTA commissioner Joe Lhota to get rid of the lights, citing confusion with volunteer emergency vehicles and no flashing lights have distinguished the buses since then.