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.

On Tuesday, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein joined a few residents whose apartments overlook the construction zone for a press conference in front of MTA’s downtown Broadway headquarters. The protesters held signs that indicated MTA stands for “Making Tenants Angry” and one that showed a photo of the goo-filled dumpster at the site.

“We respect the need to upgrade the L train,” said Epstein. “But at what cost? At what consequences? We ask the MTA to do more.”

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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 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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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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T&V Editorials, Oct. 4

Amazon can’t rescue your parakeet

This week, Town & Village would like to acknowledge one of the many ways that independent, owner-run businesses, as opposed to employee-run chains, can benefit the community.

Along with helping to keep any money spent by neighborhood residents in the same neighborhood and having knowledgeable people around to answer questions instead of clueless kids telling customers to call corporate, they are also generally fiercely loyal to the communities they serve.

A perfect example of this Carole Husiak. Husiak and her husband Johnny own Ibiza Kidz, the children’s store that only reopened last Friday after the electrical fire over three weeks ago in Stuyvesant Town.

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Upcoming L train work announced, bigger ferries coming before shutdown

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

By Sabina Mollot

From constant noise to the chaotic construction scene that has effectively hidden a number of local storefronts, the ongoing L train preliminary construction work to the upcoming shutdown has been the primary concern for many fed up residents of Stuyvesant Town.

The issue was among several brought up at a meeting held by the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association on Saturday afternoon at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.

At the meeting, attended by local elected officials and around 125 tenants, State Senator Brad Hoylman brought up a few updates to the work schedule that were only shared with his office a day earlier.

“They absolutely have to do a better job of communicating with us,” he told the crowd about the memo. “There needs to be an individual in charge and they need to have an email address on the construction site.”

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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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L train neighbors worried about noise, dust and diesel

The possibility of 24/7 construction on East 14th Street as the Avenue A subway entrance is being built was raised at a town hall meeting on Monday night. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East Village residents and local politicians demanded detailed mitigation plans from transit officials about noise and air quality relating to the upcoming L train shutdown at a recent town hall.

Speakers at the meeting, held on Monday night, brought up the construction that has already taken over East 14th Street and Avenue A as part of the work for the new subway entrance for the L train, with multiple others commenting on the increase in diesel buses in neighborhoods throughout Lower Manhattan.

“I think many of my neighbors were still surprised to realize that this will be a 24/7 construction zone moving forward in the months and years ahead,” Council Member Keith Powers said at the meeting, noting that he has already been hearing from constituents living near the construction zone at Avenue A who are dealing with noise, dust and vibrations in their apartments.

“That is in addition to everything else that we’ve talked about, which is making sure that people will be able to get to work every single day and get around the city,” Powers said. “I would ask again that we have a real plan to address long-term construction area around 14th Street, that we have a dust mitigation and noise plan. We can still do better in addressing these issues.”

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Citi Bike seeking larger storage space

City Council Member Keith Powers, pictured with representatives from Citi Bike, helped facilitate the arrival of two valet stations in Stuyvesant Town. (Photo courtesy of Council Member Keith Powers)

By Sabina Mollot

As Town & Village reported last month, two new Citi Bike valet stations have arrived at Stuyvesant Town. Together, the two docks, one on First Avenue and 16th Street and the other on East 20th Street, increased the number of bikes available to residents by 160.

The new bikes came at the request of Council Member Keith Powers, who’d been hearing from residents that there were never any bikes at the docks in the morning.

As it turns out, this may be due in part to the fact that a space in Stuyvesant Town that was leased to Citi Bike for the storage of about 500 bikes, was reutilized to become a new gym. Since then, Citi Bike has leased a smaller space on the property, but according to Rick Hayduk, general manager of Stuyvesant Town, management is trying to find a larger space onsite for the bikes’ storage, possibly on Avenue C.

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LES ferry makes maiden voyage

ferry arrives at Stuy Cove2

The Ocean Queen Rock Star, part of the fleet of NYC Ferry’s Lower East Side route, arrives at Stuyvesant Cove at 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Despite temperatures climbing high enough to warrant an official heat advisory from the city, cool winds prevailed along the East River on Wednesday for those aboard the new ferries along the Lower East Side route that launched that morning. The ferry that made the maiden voyage took off from Long Island City at around 6:30, arriving at Stuyvesant Cove at exactly 6:45 a.m. as the sun rose, carrying a mix of Stuyvesant Town residents and reporters.

The ferry, named the Ocean Queen Rock Star, then proceeded — at around 26 miles per hour — to downtown landing Corlears Hook, named, like Stuyvesant Cove, after a park on the waterfront. There, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Member Keith Powers cheered the new route, which made its debut months ahead of the dreaded L train shutdown.

De Blasio mentioned that the city has been getting many requests from New Yorkers who want a ferry stop in their neighborhoods and said that by the end of the year, decisions will be made on where else they would go. As of Wednesday, there were already six active ferry routes in the city, all operated by Hornblower. According to the mayor, there have also already been six million riders so far on NYC Ferry.

“We know how crowded the subways are. We know the streets are congested,” he said. “We know we need new ways to get around the city. We will not be the city we were meant to be if we don’t have better options.”

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Diesel buses blasted at L train meeting

An L train user speaks at the meeting held on Monday night. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents of Lower Manhattan expressed frustration about the possible environmental impacts of the L train shutdown because of an increase in buses in downtown neighborhoods at a public meeting hosted by the MTA last Monday evening.

MTA New York City Transit and the Federal Transit Administration prepared analysis at the end of last month that examines potential impacts of the MTA and DOT’s mitigation plans for the L train closure scheduled to begin in April 2019 and last for 15 months. The public meeting held on Monday at the MTA’s downtown headquarters was to solicit public feedback on the potential environmental impacts of the mitigation plan that were reviewed in this document.

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein said that one of his concerns was about the possibility of an increase in carbon monoxide and particulate matter because of the increase in congestion and bus traffic, which wasn’t analyzed in the document.

“The volume of buses will have a serious consequences,” Epstein said. “With only 15 clean, electric buses, there’s some real concern about the risk for people in my community. We need to have some more information about what that will be and will need more information throughout the process.”

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Officials say traffic enforcement and bus volume should make L train shutdown less hellish

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYC Transit President Andy Byford with Manhattan and Brooklyn elected officials (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday morning, transit officials and local elected officials told reporters they don’t expect the dreaded L train shutdown will be the L-pocalypse of doom everyone else is pretty sure it will be for the 15 months it will take to do repairs.

Reasons for this declaration include plans to run 80 shuttle buses an hour over the Williamsburg Bridge during peak times and “aggressive” enforcement to make sure private vehicles don’t jam traffic along high occupancy vehicle lanes. The soon-to-launch Lower East Side ferry schedule will also be timed to coordinate with bus arrivals.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYC Transit President Andy Byford, along with the politicians, had hopped out of a shiny, new electric bus — one of 25 that will be implemented during the L shutdown – on 14th Street and Union Square, before announcing a few updates to the mitigation plans.

One is that the NYPD is working on a plan for enforcement of traffic in HOV lanes so they don’t get crowded with private vehicles, including mini-bus services that have popped up.

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Citi Bike to expand before L shutdown

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Citi Bike will be increasing the number of bikes and docking points, as well as the number of valet stations, around transit points near 14th Street starting next spring to help mitigate the L train shutdown.

The plan, announced by the mayor’s office last Thursday, will add 1,250 bikes and 2,500 new docking points to the network to increase coverage in some of the city’s busiest neighborhoods for the bikeshare and added valet stations will increase service during peak hours. The process of offering denser coverage, known as “infill,” will involve enlarging current Citi Bike stations as well as the addition of new docking stations.

The 10 percent expansion of service will begin in Manhattan for the first stage of its plan, focusing on the neighborhoods from Canal to 59th Streets, a DOT spokesperson told Town & Village. Specific locations for the new docks have not yet been announced.

Valet stations are docking points near transit hubs in Midtown and Lower Manhattan that are staffed by Citi Bike employees who can corral extra bikes during peak hours when docks fill up and empty quickly and the bikeshare is planning to add up to 10 new valet stations in preparation for the shutdown.

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L train lawsuit partially settled

Apr5 14th St coalition Schwartz Prentiss

Arthur Z. Schwartz discusses the litigation at an April press conference. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In April, Arthur Z. Schwartz, an attorney for Advocates for Justice, filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the L train shutdown planned for 2019. The litigation, filed on behalf of a coalition of West Side residents living on or near 14th Street and disability advocacy groups, was over the lack of access for disabled passengers in the plan to upgrade various stations along the L train route.

The lawsuit is also over area residents’ concerns about traffic congestion, due to a planned “busway” on 14th Street and expanded sidewalks causing traffic to be congested on surrounding streets. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Authority were named as defendants.

However, Schwartz, who’s also a Greenwich Village Democratic district leader, announced late last month that the suit was partially settled with the MTA proposing to make the Sixth Avenue station accessible to the disabled. Previously only two stations included in the renovation plan (Bedford Avenue and First Avenue) were slated to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In exchange, the part of the lawsuit alleging disregard for disabled New Yorkers has been dropped. This was first reported by The Villager.

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DOT says 14th St. ‘busway’ will operate 17 hours a day

L train plan

MTA graphic depicting proposed mitigation plans during the L train shutdown

By Sabina Mollot

In response to community concerns about the planned “busway” to be in effect on 14th Street for the duration of the L train shutdown, the Department of Transportation has committed to making the road off limits to private vehicles for 17 hours a day, not full time. The busway will be bus-only from 5 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week, the DOT has proposed.

In addition, a spokesperson for the agency said the modified busway plan will “allow for pick-ups and drop-offs of local residents and visitors on 14th Street while discouraging through traffic.”

The hours proposed for the busway were based on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s service targets and estimated traffic volumes. Proposed HOV hours on the Williamsburg Bridge will also be 5 a.m.-10 p.m.

The Daily News reported on the plan first on Monday, as well as the fact that the agency has scrapped a plan for a two-way bike on 13th Street, which neighbors were staunchly opposed to.

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