By David Brand
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that he is canceling the planned 15-month L-train shutdown just three months before the shutdown was set to begin in April.
The sudden announcement came after the MTA, New York City government and commuters throughout Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan had spent years preparing for the L to stop running beneath the East River.
The MTA had determined that a shutdown was the most efficient way to repair the L Train tunnel, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The new plan will not require a complete closure, however. Workers will be able to perform the required repairs on nights and weekends, one track at a time, Cuomo said..
Many transportation advocates criticized the sudden announcement, saying they were skeptical of the last-minute change of plans.
“At the end of the day, what riders care about is whether the L train is repaired for the long term, and how much disruption it will take to get there,” said Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin. “The governor's plan may or may not work, but you'll pardon transit riders for being skeptical that a last-minute Hail Mary idea cooked up over Christmas is better than what the MTA came up with over three years of extensive public input.”
Raskin called on Cuomo to share more information about how the state arrived at the new plan.
"We need a full public release of the details of Governor Cuomo's idea, as well as the mitigation plans that will allow hundreds of thousands of L train riders to get around during the inevitable shutdowns and slowdowns in service,” Raskin said. “Actual transit professionals, who owe nothing to the governor or the MTA, should evaluate whether this is sound engineering or a political stunt that will ultimately leave riders in the lurch.”
Transportation Alternatives Senior Organizer Erwin Figueroa said the new adjusted schedule would have a major impact on low-wage workers who work on nights and weekend.
“As always, poor and POC New Yorkers will bear the brunt of this new "plan" for the L train, as shutdowns during nights and weekends will impact them the most,” Figueroa tweeted. “The bike lanes, busways and longer G trains need to remain as planned.”
For about a mile, the L train tracks straddle the Brooklyn-Queens border. At the Myrtle-Wyckoff and Halsey Street stops, for example, the line’s Manhattan-bound entrances are actually located in Queens. A bit further west, Brooklyn ends and Queens begins along Cypress Ave., just two blocks from the Jefferson Ave. and DeKalb Ave. L train stops.
Ahead of the proposed shutdown, commuters from Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth said they feared how the plan would affect their rides to work in Manhattan.
“The shutdown is going to suck,” said Gwen Dick, a Ridgewood resident who manages a children’s clothing store in Manhattan. “They are talking about shuttle buses, but the shuttle buses are constantly stopping.”