Editorial: We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this will work. How about you?

We will freely admit that the governor’s slamming the brakes on a plan that would have made 250,000 straphangers miserable for 15 months (instead proposing significantly less misery for that time or perhaps five months longer) felt like a white knight rescue.

But.

Andrew Cuomo is no knight. Nor is he, for that matter, an engineer.

Andrew Cuomo is a politician, and the experts he’s relying on for all this newfound information also have no experience with the subway they’re proposing to fix. So please forgive us if we’re not phone banking for Cuomo’s 2020 presidential campaign just yet. Especially since it’s still curious as to why the famously calculating governor would take such an incredible risk. The election against his formidable primary challenger is over, after all. NYC Transit President Andy Byford believes he is the one who would be on the hook if this plan fails spectacularly and he is of course right, but so would Cuomo since we all know he’s the one strong-arming all of this.

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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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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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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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Cops on lookout for L train masturbator

Dec13 public lewdness

Public lewdness suspect

Police are looking for a man who was seen masturbating on an L train at Union Square on Monday, December 3.

The victim, a 29-year-old woman, said that it occurred at around 12:45 p.m. as the man stood close to where she was. The victim snapped a photo of the suspect before she left the train at the next station.

The suspect is described as white and 25-35 years-old, and was last seen wearing all dark clothing.

Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crimestoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com, on Twitter @NYPDTips or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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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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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Mugger punches woman at L train station

Oct25 L train mugger1

Robbery suspect

Police are looking for a man who grabbed a woman’s purse and attacked her when she tried to get it back.

On Monday, October 8 about 12:30 p.m., the mugger approached the 23-year-old victim as she sat, riding the L train at Sixth Avenue on Monday, October 8. He then forcefully took her purse as the train entered the station. The woman got up and chased the mugger who darted out of the train. When the victim came close to getting bag her bag, the man punched her in the face and she let the purse go.

The man then fled in an unknown direction and the victim, police said, was uninjured and refused medical attention at the scene. The purse contained roughly $60.

Oct25 L train mugger2

Robbery suspect

The suspect is described as black, in his 20s or 30s; 6’0″ tall and 180 lbs., and was last seen wearing all dark clothing.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at nypdcrimestoppers.com, on Twitter @NYPDTips or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

Man fatally struck by L train at First Avenue

July28 L train people waiting

Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

A man died after being struck by an L train as it barreled into First Avenue on Tuesday afternoon.

The victim, whose name wasn’t released, had been leaning over the tracks just after noon, police said, before the Eighth Avenue-bound train struck him. According to one source, the man jumped, but police said the investigation is ongoing. The Daily News said the victim was a New York University student.

L train service was canceled in both directions after the incident, resuming a couple of hours later with delays.

Cops say pair dropped gun into straphanger’s bag

July12 Gun suspects

Suspects sought for grand larceny

By Sabina Mollot

Police are on the lookout for a pair of teenagers who a fellow straphanger said suddenly stashed a gun into his backpack and then tried to steal his bag to get it back.

On Wednesday, June 27 at about 8:30 p.m., the victim, a 33-year-old man, was walking along the L train platform at the Union Square subway station when he felt something drop into his backpack.

When the victim checked his bag as he walked up the stairs, he found the gun inside. At that point, two men, described as being about 18 years old, suddenly appeared and forcibly tried to take his backpack before they fled on a Brooklyn-bound L train. However, the victim was able to keep his bag and brought the weapon to police.

One of the suspects is described as being black, about six feet tall, 170 lbs. and was wearing a black sweatshirt, black pants and black shoes. The second suspect is described as Hispanic with a light complexion, 5 ft. 8 ins., and 150 lbs. He was wearing a white t-shirt, gray sweatpants and gray shoes. Photos of the two men were recovered from MTA surveillance footage.

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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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Rivera focused on mom-and-pops and affordable housing at tech hub

Council Member Carlina Rivera outside her district office in the East Village (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Newly-elected City Council Member Carlina Rivera spoke with members of the community media in a round-table discussion this week, covering affordable housing, the plight of small businesses and the transit woes affecting District 2.

Rivera, who took over the seat from Rosie Mendez, who was term-limited after 12 years in office, previously worked with Mendez as her legislative director and is a long-time community activist working in the East Village and the Lower East Side.

One of the subjects she brought up was the new “tech hub” the city is planning on East 14th Street, and Rivera said she wants to make sure affordable housing is factored into the plan.

“In terms of the zoning, it’s going to be important to look at how we can incentivize affordable housing,” she said. “People are worried that this tech hub is going to be a purely commercial development and one of the most important things we need is affordable housing.”

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Cops looking for L train masturbator

Masturbating suspect

Police are looking for a man who exposed himself and then began masturbating in front of a woman on the L train on Thursday, January 25.

The 45-year-old victim said it happened at about 9:40 a.m. as the L headed towards 14th Street and Third Avenue. She snapped a photo of the suspect before he fled the train station.

He is described as Hispanic, about 25 years old, 5’11” and was last seen wearing a large backpack with all dark clothing.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.