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

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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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Maloney touts experience in bid for reelection

Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, pictured outside her home on the Upper East Side (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While hardly an open seat, the race for candidates hoping to represent the 12th Congressional District (most of Manhattan’s East Side as well as parts of Brooklyn and Queens) is proving to be a competitive one. While the Democrat primary on June 26 has just two candidates, the only reason there are just two names on the ballot is that one of them, Suraj Patel, sued successfully against another candidate, Sander Hicks, claiming he didn’t have enough valid signatures. He did the same to an additional candidate, Peter Lindner, though he’d already been booted off the ballot by the Board of Elections. This leaves Patel, a hospitality executive who also worked on both election campaigns for the Obama administration, and Carolyn Maloney, the 25-year incumbent.

On this, Maloney, while interviewed at her home on the Upper East Side last week, mused, “For someone who said he wants more participation, I’m mystified why he’s throwing his opponent off the ballot.”

Meanwhile, Patel has also been fundraising like crazy, outpacing Maloney in recent months and trying to engage people who wouldn’t normally vote.

As for Maloney, perhaps in part due to her history of clobbering challengers at the polls, she has managed to rack up just about every endorsement there is to be had from elected officials, unions, women’s organizations and local clubs. She’s also gotten the nod from Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem.

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Rivera doesn’t want busway to be 24/7

Council Member Carlina Rivera (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Council Member Carlina Rivera is hoping to limit the hours of the planned busway on 14th Street during the L train shutdown that is beginning next year.

The Council Member sent a letter to NYC Transit President Andy Byford earlier this month, arguing that the busway should only operate between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Instead of banning private vehicles throughout the whole shutdown, Rivera said they should just be off the road for the aforementioned hours.

Rivera said she agreed with transit advocates who’ve said that a busway operating only during rush hours would not be sufficient but she argued that the busway didn’t need to be in effect overnight because vehicular traffic along the corridor is significantly lower on weeknights anyway.

John Blasco, a community liaison for Rivera, gave an overview of the letter at the June meeting of the Community Board 6 transportation committee, which supports both extending the busway to Avenue C and giving buses priority at all times instead of limiting the hours.

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Disability advocates rally for subway accessibility

Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, City Council Member Keith Powers and State Senator Brad Hoylman (along with Hoylman’s daughter Lucy) rallied with disability advocates for more accessibility in the MTA last week. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Disability advocates and elected officials braved the rain last Thursday to demand that the MTA increase accessibility in the system during the L train shutdown. The advocates and politicians met in front of the Third Avenue L station, one of the stops being closed during the shutdown that won’t be getting an elevator and which is currently inaccessible.

“New Yorkers who depend on mass transit are being locked out,” State Senator Brad Hoylman said. “Less than a quarter of the stations have elevators and on a good day, 10 percent of those aren’t working. We need to tell the MTA to do better.”

Hoylman brought his young daughter Lucy in her strolled to help demonstrate that parents, as well as people with mobility challenges, are often affected by the lack of elevators in the system.

“Think of the lack of vision that the MTA is demonstrating by trying to fix stations with new lights and paint,” Hoylman said, referring to recent station improvements the agency has done throughout the system. “That’s like putting down new carpet when you don’t have a roof.”

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Cyclists, ‘busway’ concern L train neighbors

Commissioner of Transportation Polly Trottenberg (center) (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

L train riders at a recent town hall on the upcoming shutdown are saying they’re concerned about an increase in bike traffic as a result of the mitigation and the plan to make 14th Street primarily a thoroughfare for buses, as well as accessibility for seniors and disabled residents. The meeting’s venue, The New School’s West 12th Street auditorium, was packed with more than a hundred community residents with concerns about the plans on Wednesday, May 9.

The first question came from an attendee who didn’t mince words.

“How are you going to train cyclists so they don’t kill us?” asked David Hertzberg, a West 16th Street resident. Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg admitted that the increase in cyclists would be a difficult responsibility.

“Cycling will be a hot topic,” she said. “We’ll be working with the NYPD on enforcement and we know we’re going to have a big safety challenge.”

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Rivera talks SBJSA, homelessness, L train shutdown and 14th St. tech hub

Council Member Carlina Rivera speaks about a “21st century” version of the SBJSA as well as other issues at an event at Almond in Flatiron, hosted by the Union Square and Flatiron BIDs. (Pictured) Rivera with NY1 reporter Michael Scotto (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

New Councilmember Carlina Rivera spoke with NY1 reporter Michael Scotto in an event at Almond Restaurant in Flatiron at the end of March, focusing on small businesses, the upcoming L train shutdown, homelessness and the planned tech hub for Union Square.

The event was a community breakfast hosted by two neighborhood BIDs, the Union Square Partnership and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership.

As she previously mentioned in a roundtable with Town & Village, Rivera said that she supports a “21st-century version” of the Small Business Jobs and Survival Act, clarifying further at the recent breakfast that she partially meant taking online shopping into consideration.

“We need to consider how we shop, but we also need to consider that the piece of legislation we introduce, as of last term, was 20 years old,” she said. “The way we’ve shopped has changed dramatically in 20 years so I think giving the small business owner the ability to negotiate is important. (The 21st-century version) is taking into consideration mixed-use buildings, and making sure that Small Business Services does a better job at marketing the resources they have available, along with the Department of Consumer Affairs.”

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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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USP wants to modernize Union Sq. station

The Union Square Partnership proposed a few technological enhacements for the subway station at a Community Board 5 meeting. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The neighborhood BID for Union Square wants to help make the chaotic station more navigable for commuters and tourists alike and this week offered some suggestions to Community Board 5. Union Square Partnership director of economic development Monica Munn said that the impetus for the plan is partially due to the changes the neighborhood will be undergoing with the upcoming L train shutdown but also is a push to generally modernize the station.

“(The L train shutdown) is not just about changes happening above ground,” she said, referring to the planning related to bus and street improvements to mitigate the 15 months without the L train. “We’re thinking about what needs to be done to mitigate that as much as possible but we also want to think about modernizing as much as possible.”

Representatives from the Partnership presented the suggestions to members of Community Board 5’s transportation and environment committee this past Monday.

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More details (and concerns) on 14th St. ‘Busway’

Stuyvesant Town resident AJ Miller expresses her concerns to transit officials at an open house at the 14th Street Y. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA and DOT released details on the “Busway” coming to 14th Street during the expected L train shutdown at Community Board 6’s transportation committee meeting on Monday. The agencies also gathered feedback on the plans during an open house at the 14th Street Y last Wednesday.

The new Busway will be on 14th from Third to Eighth Avenues going westbound and from Ninth to Third Avenues going east.

In both directions between Third and First Avenues, there will be a painted bus lane on the street but traffic will not be restricted and cars will be able to head across 14th Street, whereas traffic will not be allowed to cross anywhere along the Busway.

Meeting attendees asked DOT representatives why the Busway was not extended all the way to First Avenue or Avenue C and DOT representative Aaron Sugiura explained that it wasn’t ideal, but that the negatives outweighed the positives.

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Opinion: Priorities for the year ahead

By Council Member Keith Powers

Starting on January 1, I have the privilege to represent the community that I have called home throughout my life. Our district has been lucky to have been represented by Council Member Dan Garodnick for 12 years that were exciting, turbulent, and important to our future. As I take office, I look forward to building on Dan’s legacy and focusing on a few priority areas:

Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing
As I promised during my campaign, I’ll work to make housing laws fair and to provide residents an opportunity to stay in their homes for the long haul, especially right here in ST/PCV. The next few years will need to include addressing the long-term future of “Roberts” tenants in ST/PCV and assisting overburdened settling tenants in Waterside Plaza. The city and state also need to address the rising cost of housing through MCI reform, expanding SCRIE benefits, and continuing the push for zero or low rent increases for rent-regulated tenants.

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