NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The L subway service’s tunnel will be closed entirely for 18 months in 2019 to repair damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Monday.
During that time, there will be no L Train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The MTA has said the work is necessary to repair damage that the Canarsie Tunnel sustained during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
But as CBS2’s Steve Langford reported, residents of busy and trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn were not pleased at all. No matter how hip and happening Williamsburg has become, many worry that being able to get to Manhattan could take the wind out of the sails.
“If no train here, then the area’s is dead,” one man said from behind a store counter.
L Train service will still be available heading east beyond Williamsburg in Brooklyn. But east of Bedford Avenue, everyone will be stuck looking for another option.
“That’ll be impossible,” a woman said.
An estimated 225,000 people take the L Train under the East River each weekday. Subtract a significant number of those commuters from the area of Bedford Avenue and North 7th Street, and there is a concern that rents could fall.
“The reason people move here is because of the L Train station,” said real estate agent Sonny Mukhopadhyay. “Without that L Train station, these rents aren’t sustainable.”
Some like the idea of falling rents.
“Hopefully — I mean, this neighborhood’s getting too busy,” one man said.
On the other side of the East River, the news is even worse. There will be no L Train service in Manhattan at all during the reconstruction.
“If you close the L Train, you’re not going to find any business around,” said a worker at the Papaya Dog near the First Avenue L Train stop.
Ridership on the L line has more than tripled since 1990, and losing that link between Manhattan and Brooklyn for a year and a half may change life in many ways.
“I actually live in the East Village, but my boyfriend lives in Williamsburg, so that’s going to be interesting,” said Amanda Gutterman.
The MTA said other options may include extra trains on the G, J and M lines. More buses will also be added on 14th Street and over the Williamsburg Bridge.
The MTA had also considered leaving one track open during construction for a three-year period, but opted for the shorter, complete closure.
NYCT President Veronique Hakim said the 18-month closure is the better option and offers “the least amount of pain to customers for the shortest period of time.”
“We think it is better to have a shorter duration of pain than a longer more unstable process – and risk unplanned closures – by leaving one track open during construction,” Hakim said. “The 18-month option is also the most efficient way to allow MTA to do the required work. It gives us more control over the work site and allows us to offer contractor incentives to finish the work as fast as possible.”
A recent survey found 77 percent of riders prefer the shorter, complete closure over the longer three-year partial shutdown that would drastically reduce service.
“While the MTA always looks to avoid service disruptions, there is no question that repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel are critical and cannot be avoided or delayed,” MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas F. Prendergast said. “Throughout this process we have committed to engaging the community and listening to all concerns so that we can address them as we prepare for this necessary work. We are committed to working with the community just as closely as we develop ways to add service to help minimize the impacts of the closure.”
The Canarsie Tunnel sustained extensive damage to tracks, signals, switches, power cables, signal cables, communication cables, lighting, cable ducts and bench walls during Sandy.
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.