NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — L Train riders were sounding off on a service shut down on Thursday evening.
The subway tunnel beneath the East River is the lone connection between some of Brooklyn’s hippest, youngest neighborhoods — including Williamsburg and Bushwick — and the bustling 14th Street corridor in Manhattan. But it will either be closed entirely for 18 months, or see extremely limited service for three years, under two possible plans for repairing damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is trying to decide which of the two potentially painful scenarios it will inflict on people who rely on the L train to get across the city’s East River. Work would start in 2019.
The agency presented the options in the first of two public hearings on Thursday night in Brooklyn. Another meeting will be held in Manhattan.
One proposal for repairs would halt all service through the tunnel and on the Manhattan portion of the line for 18 months, while keeping service going in the section that runs through Brooklyn. The other proposal would allow one track to remain in operation below the East River, but with significantly limited service for three years.
As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, MTA Chair Tom Prendergast said both would result in pain for straphangers.
“There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to be really concerned because it’s going to seriously disrupt their lives,” he said.
In any scenario, the MTA would add extra cars on the J, M and G lines. There would also be shuttle buses between L trains and other subways along with increased bus and ferry service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported.
The L Train runs beneath 14th Street in Manhattan and connects to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and several other Brooklyn communities going east to Canarsie. Some of these fast-changing neighborhoods have become magnets for young people, artists, musicians and others who can no longer afford to live in ultra-pricey Manhattan.
Farther reaches of the line serve some of Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhoods.
Commuters said they are anxious to share their opinions at tonight’s meeting and learn more about what plans could be in store. However, some admitted they’re not willing to stick around and deal with any possible inconvenience.
“It will be a nightmare, one commuter told Gold. “I’ll have to go up to Greenpoint take the G over to the 7 and up through Grand Central.”
“I can’t imagine,” one Brooklyn commuter told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “I think I would have to move and get a car.”
“I think I’d take partial service,” another commuter said. “I think what’s interesting is…what happens to this neighborhood if there’s no L train service.”
Ridership on the line has increased dramatically since 1990, with 400,000 rides on an average day, 225,000 of which are through the Canarsie Tube running under the East River.
“Deep depression coupled with anxiety, fear, and then general anger,” Bertie Downs said.
Some riders said they would leave Williamsburg if their service goes away.
“Our lease is up in June, and I think we’re just going to move,” Nia Nottage said.
In January, the Straphangers Campaign said losing the L train would be tougher than when the Montague Tunnel was out of service for R train repairs because there were more alternatives.
There’s heavy damage in the tunnel under the East River from Superstorm Sandy, and it has to be fixed. As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, Prendergast got an earful before Thursday’s meeting even started, but explained that the project was needed.
“This is all about fixing the most heavily damaged asset we saw from Hurricane Sandy,” he said.
The idea of implementing a gondola lift over the East River has also gained some attention. The proposed Skyway from Williamsburg to the Lower East Side would be able to carry roughly 200,000 passengers a day — slightly less than the subway — and cost around $134 million.
MTA officials say the decision on which plan to go with will be made in the next few months.
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