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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Letters to the editor, Sept. 13

Sept13 Toon Streetcar

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Stranded by disabled MTA

To the Editor: An open letter to the MTA and our local politicians.

On Thursday, Sept 6 at 2:45, on the corner of 14th Street and Avenue C, I was waiting for the westbound Ave D cross town buss. For 45 minutes I watched as eleven D buses go eastbound. Three buses going west stopped but they did not allow me to board, the driver said their buses were full.

A fourth bus stopped and the driver also did not want to assist me to board, I am handicapped and use a walker, however, a kind gentleman waiting with me picked up my walker and placed into the bus. No one got up and offered me a seat; I had to sit on my walker.

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Fourth L train shutdown bus route announced

Mayor Bill de Blasio heard from a commuter during a ride on the L train, as he headed to a press conference with reporters on the aforementioned train’s dreaded shutdown. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA is adding a fourth bus route to help commuters get from Brooklyn to Manhattan during the L train shutdown that will run up First Avenue.

Joseph Ehrlich, a project manager for NYC Transit, said at a Community Board 5 meeting this week that the route was added based on feedback from members of the community.

The agency announced the additional bus at CB5’s most recent transportation committee meeting on Monday evening and also provided more detailed logistical information about how the buses would run.

The new bus, the L4, will operate along a similar route in Manhattan as the previously-announced L1. After heading into Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge, the L1 and L4 will go up Allen Street and continue onto First Avenue before turning onto East 15th Street and going south on Second Avenue until East Houston Street. The L1 originates near the L’s Grand Street stop while the L4 services riders close to the Bedford stop on the L.

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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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Letters to the editor, July 26

July26 Toon Puppet

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Lost in Stuyvesant Town

On Friday I wound up cancelling a pickup from a car service because, after I waited a half hour in front of my building, they still did not appear. It turns out that the driver had been looking on 20th Street and could not find the address although I had told the dispatcher to use the First Avenue Loop Road.

Some drivers apparently don’t know there is such a street.

This is serious, although not as serious as the day EMS could not find me.  (Eventually they did but they wasted valuable time trying to locate the wrong entrance.)

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Costumed marchers take part in Disability Pride Parade

Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Disability advocates and agency officials gathered in Union Square to celebrate the fourth Disability Pride Parade on Sunday afternoon. The parade traversed down Broadway from Madison Square Park to Union Square Park, where a festival was held in the afternoon.

City agencies such as the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Office of Emergency Management and Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and local hospitals such as NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation and Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center had representatives along the route.

Nonprofits such as HeartShare Human Services and Gateway, organizations that works with children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Pathways, a school on the Upper East Side for impaired children, Achilles International, a nonprofit that provides assistance to athletes with disabilities, and others marched as well, with kids and other participants dressing up in costumes for the parade’s “creativity” theme. Representatives from the Peter Stuyvesant Little League’s Challenger Division and Stuy Town’s Good Neighbor initiative, including ST/PCV general manager Rick Hayduk, marched towards the end of the parade.

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After asbestos confirmed, investigation continues in Flatiron

July19 Expolsion info at 22nd Con Ed

Con Ed employees accepting bagged clothing at 22nd Street and Broadway (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)

By Sabina Mollot

In the wake of Thursday’s steam-pipe explosion, the city has confirmed the presence of asbestos. Sixteen inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection have been tasked with investigating the presence of any asbestos in nearby buildings while the site of the explosion is also being monitored.

On Friday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality health advisory for the whole city through 11 p.m. The agency’s warning noted that active children and adults as well as anyone with respiratory problems reduce “prolonged or heavy exertion” outdoors.

The public is still being warned to stay away from the immediate area, where there are still emergency crews at work.

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Steam explosion in Flatiron shuts down nearby streets

By Sabina Mollot

Emergency responders are still trying to find out the cause behind an early morning explosion in the heart of the Flatiron District. The blast occurred at 6:40 a.m. on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street, sending a massive gray cloud shooting dozens of feet into the air and causing traffic shutdowns from 19th to 23rd Streets from Broadway to Sixth Avenue.

Eleven buildings were evacuated and surrounding streets were off limits to residents and workers until police began opening some streets at around 8:40 a.m., and office buildings began letting employees back inside. Town & Village’s block on West 22nd Street was one of those affected.

Town & Village driver Ray Pimentel was in his truck with stacks of this newspaper on his way to the office when he heard the massive “Boom!” nearby. Pimentel said had he not been caught at a red light on Sixth Avenue, “I would have been right in the hole in front of Chase Bank (on Fifth Avenue). I’m alive because of five seconds.”

He stopped his truck in the middle of Fifth Avenue and waited there for the Fire Department, which he said arrived in about seven minutes. Oddly, the blast didn’t smell too strong at that time.

“It was like cooking gas, you know like when you’re doing a barbecue, clean, not too bad,” he recalled.

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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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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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Flatiron, Kips Bay subway stations to close for 5 months

May10 station closure 23rd st rendering

Rendering of entrance at the 23rd Street F/M station (Renderings courtesy of MTA)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The MTA confirmed with little fanfare at the end of April that two stations in the Flatiron and Kips Bay neighborhoods would be closing this summer until the end of the year as part of the Enhanced Station Initiative program. The 28th Street station on the 6 will be closed starting on July 16 and the 23rd Street station on the F/M will be closed beginning on July 23, with both expected to reopen sometime in December.

The agency presented the plan to Community Board 5 on April 23 but specific information about the closures is not available on the MTA’s website. Photos included in the presentation to the community board show significant rusting and water damage in both stations and one of the MTA’s stated goals for the project is to “address structural and cosmetic deficiencies,” as well as improve wayfinding services, navigation and communication to customers.

Renderings of the entrances at 23rd and 28th Streets show inconspicuous improvements, with the most noticeable changes being the addition of new electronic signs announcing service changes and updates, as well as maps to help with navigation.

The interior of the stations will be getting upgrades as well, with renderings showing improvements in lighting, new turnstile areas and wayfinding screens on the platforms.

In addition to the two local stations getting the improvements, 57th Street on the F will also be closed for about six months from July to December for similar cosmetic upgrades and both the 1/2/3 and A/C/E areas in Penn Station will be renovated as well, but work there will be phased and the station will not be fully closed.

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Opinion: Star Wars

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

The first Governor Cuomo (Mario) was fond of saying that “politicians campaign in poetry, but govern in prose.” What he meant was that political campaigns are filled with lofty sounding rhetoric, but leading a government takes practical and carefully detailed policies. The place to actually look for what public officials mean to do and their priorities is found in the budget each year. That is the vehicle to literally put your money where your mouth is.

Last week the legislature and the governor put the finishing touches on the state budget for the new Fiscal Year. It was passed during the Passover Seder and hours before Easter Sunday. One thing for sure: There was no candy for Mayor de Blasio in those Albany Easter eggs. Mostly just bitter herbs.

Andrew Cuomo, who has never been shy about reacting to real or perceived slights, is using his powers as governor to the fullest extent to belittle and damage Bill de Blasio. However, he is doing a disservice to the people of New York City. It does not matter how this rivalry began. It has morphed into full-scale war. To make things even more interesting, both men fancy themselves as the progressive champion and alternative to the policies of President Trump. And there is not enough space for two such gargantuan egos in the same room or from the same state.

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Idea floated for buses on barges during L shutdown

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said she feels the alternatives presented by the MTA and DOT are not sufficient. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Just call it another L-ternative.

The operator for NYC Ferry has a mitigation plan for the L train shutdown: buses on boats. Hornblower, the company that runs the ferry service that will soon include a route stopping at Stuyvesant Cove Park, presented the preliminary plan to Community Board 6’s transportation committee, whose members were hesitantly supportive of the idea.

Skye Ostreicher, a representative for Hornblower, said at the meeting that the plan, known as “B-link,” could mitigate up to 50 percent of the ridership needing alternatives in the absence of the L train. The plan would allow riders to get on a bus near the Lorimer Street L station and stay on until different stops in Manhattan, primarily on the usual route of the L train. The buses would be loaded onto barges that Ostreicher said would take the three-minute trip across the river before letting commuters off in Manhattan.

The presentation showed the buses arriving in Manhattan at East 20th Street and Avenue C before heading down Avenue C, west on East 14th Street and turning at Union Square East to do a loop back to the docking point at East 20th Street. The route would operate as a closed loop, backtracking in the opposite direction for service to Brooklyn.

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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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