Street restoration begins on East 14th Street

Construction crews were out on East 14th Street on Tuesday morning removing barricades from an island near the front of the Associated Supermarket adjacent to the L train worksite. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East Side residents may soon be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the L project—or at least across East 14th Street. The MTA noted in a newsletter sent out on Saturday that street restoration began on the Manhattan side for the L project over the weekend, meaning that construction crews would begin packing up and restoring a section of the street and sidewalk, clearing up some of the above-ground construction at the site in front of the Associated Supermarket in Stuyvesant Town.

The construction management team working on the project said that street restoration means that the crew will reconstruct the street, sidewalk paving and trees back to the way it was before the project began.

“The biggest task is rebuilding the street itself,” the team said in the newsletter. “We’ll be doing that work ourselves, following very specific rules from the city [Department of Transportation].”

The process of street restoration includes multiple steps, beginning with dumping in backfill that is compressed with a heavy vibrating roller and tamping machines, followed by a base of concrete. An asphalt spreader will then move down the street with crews following to rake the asphalt even and to minimize traffic disruptions, this work is done at night.

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Opinion: Drop the busway lawsuit

By Sophie Maerowitz

With the planned implementation of the 14th Street Busway on July 1, residents of the East Village were preparing for a major uptick in our quality of life. However, a frivolous last-minute court order has delayed much-needed bus improvements for tens of thousands of our neighbors yet again.

As a resident of East 14th Street and an advocate of the 14th Street busway since 2015, I was incredibly disheartened to see this snap decision. I have spent  years working with my neighbors doing grassroots activism, building widespread community support for a car-free bus corridor on 14th Street, and it is quite frankly perverse to argue that transit improvements are an environmental threat, as the suit alleges.

The truth is, this delay will only serve to keep the M14A and M14D buses moving at an appalling sub-4 mile per hour speed. It’s no surprise that the #BusTurnaround coalition has given these lines an “F” rating.

Whatever else contributed to the decision, I don’t think it helped that the judge in this case, Eileen Rakower, never heard the perspective of those of us in the community that care about quick and reliable bus service on 14th Street, which we know won’t work if buses are caught in car traffic. If only she was there when we raced the M14D on foot; it only beat us by two seconds.

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Busway delayed by lawsuit while SBS launches on 14th

Stuyvesant Town resident Mary Garvey argued against the lawsuit that prevented the launch of the new busway on 14th Street on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Implementation of the proposed busway for 14th Street has been delayed after a judge issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the plan from going into effect on Monday with the launch of Select Bus Service for the M14A/D.

The MTA said that while SBS on the route was scheduled to launch on July 1 anyway, the lawsuit will make it more difficult to provide faster bus service.

“This ruling will undoubtedly hinder our goal of speeding up buses on one of the busiest and most congested arteries, and make traveling around the city harder for our customers,” MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek said. “Transit prioritization such as the city’s Transit and Truck Priority busway would help speed up Select Bus Service. In the meantime, we’re working with NYCDOT and NYPD to enforce existing rules to ensure our buses won’t be blocked by vehicles double parking and blocking bus stops.”

The New York Post reported on Friday that a Manhattan judge issued the restraining order as part of a lawsuit that attorney and West 12th Street resident Arthur Schwartz filed on behalf of a number of block associations on Wednesday, June 20 that opposed the restrictions on 14th Street.

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Registered sex offender arrested for L train groping

Suspect Gian Verdelli

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

This Friday, police arrested a man with multiple previous convictions for sex crimes in connection with a subway groping that took place on the L train near First Avenue earlier this week. The suspect was identified as 67-year-old Gian Verdelli, who the Daily News reported was just released from prison in May after he was convicted of another incident of sex abuse on the subway. 

The 37-year-old victim was on an Eighth Avenue-bound L train traveling from Bedford to First Avenue on Wednesday, June 26 around 8:50 a.m. when Verdelli allegedly put his hand under her dress and groped her. She and Verdelli both got off the train at First Avenue, where the victim took a photo of Verdelli with her phone before he fled the station. 

Verdelli is a level 2 sex offender and lives in a shelter on Wards Island, according to the New York State sex offender registry, and he was arrested there on Friday. 

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First Avenue florist retiring

Pete Tsoumas is retiring on Friday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

After 65 years in business, the colorful floral stand tucked in a corner at the Brooklyn-bound exit of the First Avenue L is selling its last bouquet on Friday. Current owner Pete Tsoumas has been operating the stand for almost 50 years, having taken it over from his grandfather and uncle after running three other stores in the city, and now he finally gets to retire. 

“If you told me I’d be here for 48 years, I’d say you’re crazy,” Tsoumas said. 

Tsoumas said that the construction on the station was a challenge but the main reason he’s closing up shop is his health and he’s looking forward to spending time with his family. 

“I need a rest. ‘If you don’t close on Friday, you won’t make it (to your appointment) in September,’” he said his doctor told him at a previous appointment, indicating that his stem-cutting arm gives him trouble.

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MTA releases data on L project dust levels

The MTA released its report on L project dust levels last Friday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA released a report last Friday afternoon on the dust levels in L stations affected by the tunnel work during the first weekend of the slowdown, concluding that the amount of dust in the air of was “well below” the accepted standard.

The report measured dust concentrations in the public spaces at the Bedford and First Avenue stations before, during and after the work was being done, from noon on Friday, April 26 to noon on Monday, April 29.

The MTA is using a standard that was established by the American Council of Government Industrial Hygienists for people who are potentially exposed to these levels for eight hours a day over a 45-year career.

The transit agency noted in the report that there isn’t an established standard exposure limit for the (usually short) periods that straphangers would typically pass through subway stations so the agency is using the long-term chronic standard as a health-protective benchmark. Dust levels were found to be below the standard of 3,000 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3).

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How to get around during the L slowdown

The mayor’s office released this graphic to illustrate how traffic along 14th Street will be managed.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The lesser L train apocalypse is scheduled to begin this Friday and although service will be maintained in Manhattan under the slowdown unlike in the previous full shutdown plan, riders can still expect longer wait times and service changes during nights and weekends until at least next summer when the project is expected to be completed.

The biggest change with the revised L train project is that the L will run normal service during weekday rush hours and service is expected to be available in Manhattan at all times.

According to the MTA’s dedicated page for the plan, available at new.mta.info/L-project, there will be normal L train service between 1:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. throughout the entire line on weekdays, but starting after 8 p.m. this Friday, trains will become less frequent compared to normal service until 10 p.m. during the week.

Service will then be reduced from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. compared to regular service and while trains are expected to run every 20 minutes from 1:30 to 5 a.m. on weeknights and until 6 a.m. on weekend nights, this is the regular overnight frequency for the line.

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Man killed by L train at First Avenue station

Feb21 First Avenue L train station entrance closeup

L train at First Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A 36-year-old man committed suicide by jumping in front of an L train at the First Avenue station on Monday evening, the NYPD said. 

According to an NYPD spokesperson, the train operator saw the man standing on the Eighth Avenue-bound platform as the train was pulling into the station around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 15. The operator observed the victim jump off the platform as the train arrived, and he was found in between the train cars.

The NYPD is withholding the name of the victim pending family notification.

Service on the L was halted between Bedford Avenue and Eighth Avenue for about two hours after the incident, causing delays in L train service in both directions during the evening rush hour.

The MTA announced via Twitter that third-rail power was restored at First Avenue by 7 p.m. and service was restored by 7:30 p.m. with residual delays.

Buses, not L train, the top concern at MTA town hall

Bus protesters

Protesters slam the elimination of bus stops at the L train open house at the 14th Street Y. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

East Side straphangers voiced concerns about changes to the M14 route at the latest L train town hall held at the 14th Street Y this past Monday.

The MTA and NYC Transit held the town hall to accept feedback on the L train plan, and while M14 bus service is not directly related to the project, the MTA is planning to make the route SBS to help commuters when L train service is limited during the construction.

The Department of Transportation is also still considering implementing a “busway” along 14th Street that would limit private traffic on the roadway, and DOT Director of Transit Policy Aaron Sugiura said that a decision on the busway will likely be made by early summer around the time that SBS is launched on the M14. The DOT is requesting feedback on the busway and will make a decision after receiving input from the community.

“The volume of people on 14th Street was going to be staggering (with a full shutdown) so it’s slightly less of an issue now,” Sugiura said. “But (a busway is) still a possibility and we’re still working on what exactly it would look like.”

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Editorial: Transit transparency, please

L train neighbors finally got some good news this week with the announcement that work at the 14th Street construction zone will end significantly earlier each night. We thank the MTA (and the elected officials who’ve been working behind the scenes) for making this happen (finally).

However, as Town & Village has also been reporting, the MTA hasn’t committed to keeping the First and Third Avenue stations open for those looking to get onto a train during the L project slowdown. But what’s just as vexing is that the subject isn’t even being discussed unless riders or elected officials are the ones to bring it up.

The concerns have arisen after a story ran on Streetsblog earlier this year about the possible exit-only station plan based on a leaked internal MTA memo. Recently, the agency confirmed that it is reviewing the matter of station access.

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MTA agrees to end late night L construction

The MTA has committed to stopping work at the East 14th Street construction zone at 7 p.m. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

While many of the details of the L train alternative repair project are still being decided, the MTA has committed to reducing the number of hours currently worked to six days a week at the East 14th Street construction zone.

Neighbors have said work often ends at 11 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays, although the MTA has said it tries to stop any noisy work by 10 p.m. But on Tuesday night, the MTA’s chief development officer overseeing the project, Janno Lieber, committed to stopping work by 7 p.m. at a meeting held by Community Board 3’s Transportation Committee.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to minimalize the impact of our work on neighbors, and they understandably have been asking for shorter hours,” Shams Tarek, a spokesperson for the MTA, told Town & Village.

Tarek added that the MTA wanted to first consult the contractor to make sure doing this wouldn’t lengthen the duration of the project, which includes the creation of an Avenue A entrance to the First Avenue L station. The new schedule of 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday to Friday, with possibly shorter hours on Saturday is effective immediately.

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MTA offers few definite answers to L train concerns

Stuyvesant Town resident Mary Garvey brings up bike lanes at the meeting. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

As of Monday night, the MTA would still not confirm or deny the possibility of exit-only L train stations at First and Third Avenues or the specifics of increased bus service during the revised L tunnel construction project.

Representatives from the agency were at a Community Board 6 meeting on Monday, where frustrated East Side residents in attendance didn’t get any of the answers they were hoping for.

The CB6 meeting was the first appearance by the transit authority at the community board since the new plan, which allows the L train to continue running while work is being done, was announced in January. Officials from the agency shared updates at the meeting that the MTA had offered local elected officials in mid-February.

Glen Lunden, manager of operations planning at NYC Transit, said that part of the mitigation efforts under the revised plan includes increasing service on the M14, especially along the M14A, which uses Avenue A and runs from the West Village to Grand Street on the Lower East Side. The M14D uses Avenue D, and goes between Chelsea Piers and Delancey Street on the Lower East Side. As Town & Village has previously reported, the agency is planning to launch Select Bus Service on the M14 route but the express but service won’t be available until later in the year.

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Editorial: What the L is the MTA thinking?

As more details continue to be announced (or leaked) with regards to the revised L train repair plan, what becomes increasingly clear is that avoiding a full shutdown doesn’t mean avoiding a painfully slow commute.

As Town & Village reported last week, though many details are still up the air, there is a possibility of the two Manhattan East Side L stations becoming exit only (First and Third Avenue). Additionally, so far it appears that Select Bus Service won’t be made available until months after the project begins. On the latter issue, the MTA wants to do outreach first to see if SBS is truly needed.

This we don’t understand. Even under normal circumstances, the L train is crowded and alternative methods of transportation need to be expanded. The M14 as it exists today is currently too poky along this very busy street to be a truly dependable alternative. Of course SBS is needed.

Now, as for this other business of potentially not allowing anyone to enter the First and Third Avenue stations in order to mitigate crowding, this would be, as Council Member Keith Powers put it, “effectively a shutdown” for anyone who lives near the First or Third Avenue stations.

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MTA rebuilding stairway at Union Square L train platform

Union Square station stairwell on the L train platform (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA announced last weekend that the stairs connecting the L train with the uptown and downtown NQRW trains will be demolished and rebuilt this March.

The stairs will be unavailable beginning on March 4 while the project is ongoing and the agency said it expects the stairways to reopen by the end of the month.

The MTA said that the uptown and downtown staircases, which currently face each other on the L platform, will be redesigned to make it easier for commuters to navigate than the current configuration and dissipate crowds to move along the platform more quickly.

This includes expanding the width of the lower flight of both staircases from five feet to seven feet so it matches the width of the upper flight, which is already seven feet. The extra width will add enough space for an extra passenger lane so it can fit three people at a time instead of just two.

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MTA announces open houses on revised L train plan

L train at First Avenue (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

The MTA has announced it will hold a series of open houses starting in March to address any concerns related to the revised L train plan. Representatives from the Department of Transportation and NYC Transit will also be available to discuss planned street treatments and M14 Select Bus Service.

The four open houses, two in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn, are scheduled for:

Thursday, March 7: Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard, 328 West 14th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)
Wednesday, March 13: Williamsburg Northside School, 299 N. 7th Street (at Meeker Avenue)
Tuesday, March 19: Grand Street Campus High School, 850 Grand Street (between Bushwick Avenue and Waterbury Street)
Monday, April 8: 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)

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