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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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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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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Assembly candidates talk traffic, construction and MCIs at forum

Assembly candidates Mike Corbett, Harvey Epstein and Sandro Sherrod at a forum held by local Democratic clubs on Saturday (Photo by Bert Ongkeo)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Candidates for the 74th Assembly District seat met for a forum hosted by the Tilden Democratic Club and the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club last Saturday evening at the Seafarer’s International House. The forum had been postponed from earlier in the month due to the snowstorm, although the Gramercy Stuyvesant Independent Democrats, which originally planned the event with the two other clubs, ultimately braved the weather and held its forum that day.

Sandro Sherrod, a technology director at NYU Langone, Harvey Epstein, a project director with the Urban Justice Center, and Mike Corbett, an aide to City Council Member Costa Constantinides, all agreed that they didn’t disagree on much but shared their specific positions on issues such as affordability, the MTA, education and other topics.

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Woman rescued from L train tracks

Feb26 L Train

By Sabina Mollot

The MTA temporarily suspended L train service between Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenue in Brooklyn and First Avenue in Manhattan after a woman either jumped or fell into the tracks.

Police said the victim was seen jumping into the tracks and that no crime is suspected at this time, although an MTA spokesperson said the woman fell into the tracks. The FDNY said she was hit by a train. The Post reported she was pulled out from underneath a train where she was trapped.

Her age is unknown. The victim, who the MTA said was injured at the Bedford Avenue stop at 11:20 a.m., was taken to Bellevue Hospital. Responders do not yet have information on her condition.

At 12:17 p.m., NYCTransit tweeted that train service had resumed. An emailed advisory noted passengers should expect delays. Shortly prior to that service had resumed, bypassing the Bedford stop in both directions.

Hailing Access-a-Ride will get much easier with app

State Senator Liz Krueger with representatives of the MTA’s Paratransit agency and disability advocates at a forum held last Thursday (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Access-A-Ride, the method of public transportation relied upon by many disabled New Yorkers, will finally be brought up to speed, thanks to a new app.

Representatives from Paratransit, the branch of the MTA that operates “demand-response” service for customers with disabilities, have announced that the agency will be launching a unified app by next June to improve transparency and provide flexibility in scheduling rides.

Paratransit said this will allow passengers to reserve trips in advance to areas of the city covered by the subway, even if it’s just one hour in advance. The current system, meanwhile, forces users to reserve rides at least 24 hours in advance and with little recourse if rides are delayed or don’t show at all.

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Stuy Town bus terminal proposed for L shutdown

MTA graphic depicting proposed mitigation plans during the L train shutdown

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A new temporary bus terminal may be headed for under the FDR Drive across from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the MTA and the city have announced. The terminal will act as a transfer point for ferry riders during the 15-month L train shutdown, with more than 60 buses per hour going through the space under the FDR.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation both discussed the plan while testifying at a City Council Transportation Committee hearing last Thursday. During the hearing, they provided information on the proposed terminal and other mitigation plans for the shutdown, including a new, also-temporary ferry route that will end at the planned Stuyvesant Cove ferry stop at East 20th Street and connect with the M14 Select Bus Service (SBS), which is expected to launch in time for the shutdown.

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Stuy Town gets new temporary bus stop shelter

The new shelter at the northeast corner of East 14th Street and Avenue B (Photo by Lawrence Scheyer)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, a temporary bus stop shelter was installed on the northeast corner of East 14th Street and Avenue B as preliminary work continues along 14th Street for the looming L train reconstruction.

A rep for City Council Member Dan Garodnick told Town & Village the shelter’s installation is unusual for a couple of reasons. First, because the city had initially said that temporary shelters aren’t normally installed at stops that get relocated due to construction. However, Garodnick was able to convince the city to install this one as well as another at a different stop on Avenue A over the summer.

The new shelter is also unusual because it had to fit alongside the L train construction site and still have an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalk.

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