Governor Andrew Cuomo’s LaGuardia Airport AirTrain project is one step closer to reality after he signed state legislation authorizing the project on Monday. The AirTrain will provide a corridor between the airport and the Mets-Willets Point station in Flushing, Queens, which serves the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and the 7 train. State legislation, which was passed earlier this month, allows the New York State Department of Transportation to acquire city or MTA-owned land in order to build this project. Cuomo, who first proposed the project three years ago, promises that the new train will connect passengers from Manhattan to LaGuardia in under 30 minutes. Engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff was selected in 2017 to oversee and analyze preliminary engineering and design process for up to two new AirTrain stations. Estimated costs for this project have risen to $1.5 billion from the original $450 million projected cost in 2015, according to The New York Times. But Cuomo’s proposal has been met with criticism, mainly for the circuitous route that the AirTrain would take. It would take passengers past LaGuardia in order to reach Mets-Willets, and only then would they transfer to the AirTrain and reverse course back to the airport. Critics have also been skeptical of Cuomo’s promise of an under-30-minute commute. It takes 16 minutes of train time by LIRR from Manhattan to Willets Point, but Cuomo did not take into account the time it would take waiting for trains or for passengers to get to and from the LIRR, which operates out of Pennsylvania Station. Currently, the LIRR also only operates to Mets-Willets Point during the Mets season and during off-peak hours, only runs once every 30 minutes. The actual AirTrain time is estimated to take six minutes with trains running every four minutes. Altogether, total commute time may end up being much more than the 30 minutes and may even take longer than using existing infrastructure like the express buses, according to Yonah Freemark of MIT. The AirTrain project is a part of Cuomo’s $8 billion push to update the deteriorating airport. A new Terminal B is scheduled to be completed in 2020 and the new Delta Terminal C in 2021. Although the AirTrain project is not finalized, the next step will be an environmental review that will begin later this year.
Search results for "MTA"
Dia Art Foundation is undergoing major changes at all its locations, overseen by New York-based architects Architecture Research Office (ARO), with partners Adam Yarinsky and Kim Yao taking the lead. The plan is to upgrade and expand the flagship New York City and Beacon locations, reactivate a programming space in Soho, and revitalize two New York exhibitions of Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room (1977) and The Broken Kilometer (1979), which have been in Dia’s care since the 1970s. Dia, which has been around since 1974, has exhibited primarily in former industrial sites, such as a converted Nabisco factory in Beacon, NY. As director Jessica Morgan told The New York Times, “The idea of new architecture is so antithetical to Dia.” ARO was chosen for its notable sensitivity to existing spaces and its experience in renovating art spaces, such as the Judd Foundation and the Rothko Chapel. In Beacon, ARO will redesign the former factory’s lower level to open up 11,000 square feet of exhibition space. Dia’s Chelsea location will also see an expansion. Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room and The Broken Kilometer Beyond will be getting climate control to keep them open through the summer. Beyond renovations and improvements of existing sites, the project also includes the reclamation of a 2500-square-foot gallery in Soho that had previously served as a retail space. Renovating existing spaces rather than engaging in new construction also aligns with Dia’s financial mission. These renovations are made possible in part by a $78 million campaign, which Dia is hoping to mostly direct to their endowment and to operating finances, rather than to construction. As Jessica Morgan, the Nathalie de Gunzburg Director of Dia, puts it, “Our work with ARO builds on Dia’s history of repurposing and activating found architectural spaces and will help us reinvigorate our mission and program across the range of sites that make up Dia today.”
For New Yorkers, it’s no secret that the MTA is rapidly deteriorating. Practically defined by delays and diversions—and not to mention the impending L train shutdown—the financial and political behind-the-scenes of the subway system has come under increasing scrutiny. While numerous articles, commentaries, reports, and angry tweets have been published on the state of the MTA and its causes, Everyday Arcade has released what might be the first video game on the crumbling system, MTA Country. Styled after a classic Nintendo-style platformer (its name references the 1994 SNES game Donkey Kong Country), MTA Country is a ride through a roller coaster of subway tunnel. For players, the goal of MTA Country is to get its main character, Gregg T (Gregg Turkin, a lawyer, NYPD Legal Bureau member, and much meme-ified face of the NYPD’s “If You See Something, Say Something” subway campaign) to work. Luckily, he has help from his friends Bill (de Blasio) and Andrew (Cuomo). After watching the trio be launched from a trashcan, gamers can ride down tracks collecting coins as they leap over track fires, stopped trains, broken rails, the notorious Pizza Rat. Graffiti in the background reads “Giuliani was here,” among other commentary. Without giving away any spoilers, users skilled enough to collect all the letters that dot the tracks will be in for a special high-speed transformation à la Elon Musk and rocketed off to a new destination. Luckily for New Yorkers, MTA Country also works on your phone, making it an ideal way to pass time when your train inevitably gets stuck.
MTA releases 10-year plan to improve subway and bus services
Within ten years, a modernized signal system on 6 subway lines and more than 180 new subway stations are among many new improvements to New York City’s public transportation promised by the MTA. In a package released by New York City Transit Chief Andy Byford and the MTA, called “Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize New York City Transit,” (PDF) the transit provider also guarantees repair work at more than 300 stations, new subway cars and CBTC-modified car, a redesign of bus routes and a new tap-and-go fair payment system to be in place in the next decade. The improvements come with a cost. According to The New York Times, the groundbreaking proposal will cost more than $19 billion for the first five years. The plan will also entail closures, including continuous night and weekend closures for up to 2.5 years per line. Byford’s plan is thought to be ambitious, as work previously estimated to take 40 years would be completed within the next ten years. The two-stage proposal will benefit a cumulative eight million daily riders. The outdated transportation infrastructure has caused delays and frustration. The “state-of-the-art” communications-based train control (CBTC) is believed to deliver greater reliability and better prospects for future capacity growth. In the first five years, lines 4, 5, 6, 7, A, C, E, F, M, R, G will be upgraded with the advanced train control signal system; in the next five years, lines 1, 2, 3, B, D, S, N, Q, R, W too will be upgraded. The bus network will be reimagined across the five boroughs, promising customer focused routes, faster and more reliable travel times, and more comfortable and environmentally sustainable buses. However, the plan has an issue with funding. Amidst the quarrel between Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio on who should pay to rehabilitate the subway, a spokesperson for de Blasio told The New York Times that the city is not willing to help pay for Byford's plan. He advised that the MTA should instead resort to existing resources and the state should endorse new revenue sources such as the millionaire's tax that de Blasio has proposed.
For the estimated 24,100 New Yorkers who cross between Manhattan and Brooklyn on the L train every hour, 2019 is not looking so good. After being pushed back year after year, the 15-month L train shutdown to allow for repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel for Hurricane Sandy-related damage is finally happening next April. The city is hoping that riders will use alternative subway connections, or even alternatives to the subway, and is implementing changes across the subway system as well as establishing new shuttle bus routes and usage restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge and 14th Street. At a May 16th town hall meeting in Williamsburg, according to The Village Voice, city and MTA officials were reluctant to reveal how many more trains can cross the Williamsburg Bridge on the J/M/Z lines, one of the proposed solutions for displaced L train commuters. But the answer eventually came: 24 trains an hour—in a best-case scenario. This number is just three trains over current capacity. A large part of the issue is due to the fact that the tracks feature S-curves on both sides of the bridge, which requires trains to slow down significantly to safely make the turns without derailing. The MTA is adding and reducing trains at other points in the system in an attempt to alleviate some of the problems for L-train commuters. Even still, this leads to a net reduction of capacity by 12.5 train cars, or 25,000 riders per hour, according to The Village Voice. This also means that beyond longer treks and numerous transfers, waits on platforms to get on packed trains may become even worse. There are currently plans to restrict travel on the Williamsburg Bridge to buses, trucks, and carpools and to restrict 14th Street to buses and local deliveries during peak hours, but borough politicians say this isn’t enough, and that restrictions to bus service and high occupancy vehicles needs to go beyond peak hours during the L train shutdown and call on the city to develop a 24-hour plan. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer sent a letter on Monday to Mayor Bill de Blasio calling on the city to provide 24-hour busway alternatives. As Adams and Brewer point out, they represent 24/7 communities and stated, “If we hope to persuade New Yorkers to continue to rely on public transit while the L train tunnel is closed, we must provide shuttle bus service that is seamless, efficient and reliable whenever our constituents need to ride.” The mayor has thus far opposed a 24-hour busway in favor of restrictions and shuttles for yet-to-be-defined peak hours. Many residents are divided on the issue. Regardless, as the shutdown rapidly approaches, the city must finalize a 24-hour plan to deal with the significant blow the loss of the L train will deal to commuters.
Look on the Sunnyside
PAU confirmed as Sunnyside Yard master planner
Alicia Glen, New York’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, and Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia, announced at a media briefing yesterday that master planning for Sunnyside Yard in western Queens would begin summer of 2018. A steering committee made up of local stakeholders and technical experts will be guiding the process, while Vishaan Chakrabarti’s PAU will be leading the master planning team (confirming a leak from late March). PAU’s team and the steering committee will utilize the results of the feasibility study commissioned in February of 2017 as a starting point in planning for the future of the 180-acre active rail yard. Over the next 18 months, the steering committee and planning team will establish long-term plans for how to best develop the site, and what the most feasible first steps will be. Regular check-ins with the community will also be scheduled, as the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Amtrak want to keep the process forward-facing. Co-chaired by the city and Amtrak, the 35-person steering committee includes several members of Sunnyside’s Community Board 2; President of the Regional Plan Association Tom Wright; President of LaGuardia Community College Gail Meadow; and representatives from developers, construction associations, Amtrak, NYCHA, and other groups with a vested interest in the project. Also of note was the appointment of Cali Williams, a long time NYCEDC employee as the Director of Sunnyside Yard. Any of the resulting plans will involve decking over an extensive portion of the rail yard while keeping it running for the Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and New Jersey Transit trains running below. To that end, the actual master plan consultant team is something a who's-who of New York firms. Thornton Tomasetti will be handling the structural engineering, Sam Schwartz Engineering will be responsible for the mobility planning and engineering, and Nelson Byrd Woltz has been tapped as the landscape architect. The Italian firm Carlo Ratti Associati has also been selected as the project’s “futurist”, to help guide expand the team’s thinking about what’s possible. The initial NYCEDC feasibility study determined that decking over 80 to 85 percent of the site was possible, with the potential to build out up to 24,000 residential units, 19 schools, and 52 acres of parkland, at a cost of $19 billion. While monetary considerations weren’t raised explicitly at the May 2nd meeting, it was pointed out that this project would be a significant investment to Western Queens. Right now, the steering committee will be dedicated first and foremost to deciding how to advance what the community wants most out of the development. The steering committee’s formation comes at a critical time for the yard, as the MTA will also be working at the site to bring the East Side Access project online (allowing LIRR trains to reach Grand Central). Governor Cuomo has promised that that particular project will be ready by 2022.
State of the State
NY state budget declares Penn Station area an “unreasonable” public risk, and other shakeups
After a tumultuous series of negotiations over New York State’s 2018-19 budget that came down to the wire, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on a finalized $168 billion bill late last Friday. While a congestion pricing plan and the removal of density caps for NYC residential developments failed to pass, sweeping changes that could preclude a state seizure of the Penn Station area have made it through. The finalized budget provides a bevy of changes and funding initiatives that will affect New York-based architects and planners. In a move to stabilize city’s deteriorating subway system, $836 million was authorized for the MTA’s Subway Action Plan–with the requirement that the city government would have to foot half of the bill. As AN has previously reported, the money would go towards stabilizing the subway system by beefing up track work, replacing 1,300 troublesome signals, tracking leaks, and initiating a public awareness campaign to reduce littering. At the time of writing, the de Blasio administration which has repeatedly claimed that the city already pays more than its fair share, has agreed to contribute their $418 million portion. Congestion pricing, proposed by Governor Cuomo’s own transportation panel, failed to make it into the final legislation. The plan would both reduce traffic on Manhattan’s streets and could potentially raise up to $1.5 billion for subway repairs, but couldn’t muster enough support to pass. Instead, a surcharge on for-hire cars will be enacted below 96th Street in Manhattan; $2.75 for for-hire cars, $2.50 for yellow cabs, and $0.75 for every pooled trip. The terminally underfunded New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will also be getting a boost, as Cuomo has pledged $250 million for repairs across the agency’s housing stock. However, the boost is somewhat undercut by the federal government’s recent decision to restrict NYCHA’s access to federal funds as a result of the lead paint scandal rattling the agency. To save time and money, the budget has implemented design-build practices–where the designer and contractor operate as one streamlined team–for future NYCHA projects, the forthcoming Rikers Island transformation, and the delayed Brooklyn-Queens Expressway restoration. While one controversial plan to remove Floor Area Ratio caps in future New York City residential developments didn’t make it into the final draft, another even more contentious proposal did. According to language in the final budget, the area around Penn Station has been deemed an “unreasonable risk to the public". This formal declaration could be used in future negotiations between the state and Madison Square Garden as leverage, or even as a pretext for eventually seizing the area via eminent domain. The budget, which the New York Times described as a broadside against Mayor de Blasio, ultimately exerts greater state intervention across a swath of local issues, from education to urban planning. More information on the final 2018-19 budget can be found here.
State v. City
Cuomo adds controversial, last-minute proposal to control Penn Station-area development
As New York State’s 2018-2019 budget negotiations come down to the wire, Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has reportedly slipped in a proposal that would give the state virtually unrestricted development authority over the area surrounding Penn Station. According to the anonymous sources who briefed Politico yesterday, if passed, the state would gain the ability to build without restrictions on height or density, the need to conduct any environmental review, or to win community approval. Through the use of the Empire State Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority–both controlled by the governor’s office–the state would redevelop from 30th to 34th Streets between 6th and 8th Avenue. After facing serious blowback from city leaders, especially over how the proposal would exempt the state from local zoning or preservation laws, the governor’s office released the following statement:
“Penn Station is currently untenable. It is congested, chaotic and poses a serious threat to public safety in this time of heightened terrorist threats,” said Dani Lever, press secretary for the governor, in a statement to the New York Times. She emphasized that any potential development would be done in “consultation with community leaders and elected officials, environmental reviews and local government reviews.”The Cuomo administration has previously played a major role in the redevelopment of the Penn Station area, including backing the transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall. While the city has reportedly been in talks with the MTA and developers Vornado Realty Trust, who own much of the property surrounding Penn Station, Wednesday was apparently the first time that any party outside of Albany had seen the proposal. When reached for comment by Politico, Cuomo spokesperson Peter Ajemian suggested that their reporting on the day-old plan was already outdated.
"Throughout the budget process, documents are exchanged hundreds of times over to advance solutions for New Yorkers," said Ajemian. "The document you’re basing your story on is outdated, inaccurate and not comprehensive."The governor’s office has suggested that the original broad outline was simply a starting point, and would likely be narrowed down in the back-and-forth as budget negotiations continued. Still, with Governor Cuomo’s self-imposed March 30th deadline looming, it’s unclear if the plan will make the final cut. The full version of the leaked document can be found here.
Winners of MTA’s first genius award announced
The winners of the MTA’s Transit Genius Challenge, which was first announced last spring, have been selected. The award, which set aside $3 million to be split among winners in three categories, is part of the city’s plan to modernize the aging subway system, which has been experiencing ever increasing delays and other issues affecting its nearly 6 million daily users. The MTA has been in an official state of emergency since the summer of 2017. Of the 19 finalists, of which 17 are major corporations and current MTA contractors, eight have been selected as winners to split the three $1 million prizes. In the category of signalling, Robert James and Metrom Rail have both won for a proposal to use ultra-wideband technology, a wireless technology that eliminates the need for more costly, cumbersome equipment and that the MTA has the ability to implement immediately. Using ultra-wide band technology would cut decades off the 40-year plan to overhaul the subway’s signaling system. Also in signalling, Ansaldo STS and the Thales Group have won the contest with plans for using sensors and cameras to track train positions and allow them to travel closer together more effectively. In the second challenge category, subway cars, three winners have been chosen for three different approaches to the problem. Lawyer and transit aficionado Craig Avedisian took home $330,000 for a plan that combines longer, higher capacity trains with new loading procedures to significantly increase train capacity with only minor changes to underlying technical infrastructure. CRRC has proposed a $50 million initial investment to develop an entirely new train car with materials such as carbon fiber, and proposes shorter lifecycles on subway cars to be able to continually phase in the newest technologies. Finally, CSiT wants to harness the power of big data to quickly identify maintenance issues and create a more reliable rider experience. In the final category, communications, Bechtel Innovation has won for a plan to implement a semi-automatic robotic system to install communications and control systems. The Big B, as the robotic solution is called, could even nimbly climb off railways, into stations, onto platforms, and into service bays. Transit Wireless and Alcatel-Lucent (Nokia) received honorable mentions in the category. Although it is not immediately clear how and if the winning changes might be phased into subway operations, the MTA was inspired by the success of the Transit Genius Challenge and intends to create a recurring challenge, the “Transit Innovation Partnership.”
NYC subways get $250 million cosmetic upgrades package
A $1 billion update to New York City’s subway system is coming, and although the resulting renovations will shutter six stations for the next few months, transit advocates are outraged that $250 million has been designated for cosmetic upgrades. In a 10-3 vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board yesterday, the body approved a station improvement funding package, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which will refurbish 33 stations across the city. But the package leaves out necessary upgrades that would bring aging stations in line with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The $250 million will instead go towards installing USB and lightning chargers in the affected stations, as well as adding glass barriers, better lighting, and new surface-level entrance vestibules. The passage of Governor Cuomo’s Enhanced Station Initiative was far from a sure thing, especially after MTA board members appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio successfully blocked an initial vote. Criticizing the plan’s selection of stations in need of repair, failure to allocate money for elevators or to address the system’s failing infrastructure (and the share of the bill that the city would have to foot), the vote was rescheduled pending further study.
Now it seems that the MTA board has ultimately sided with Governor Cuomo, as Andy Byford, the new president of New York City Transit (the subsection of the MTA responsible for the subway system) sided with the Governor. Byford defended the Enhanced Station Initiative as more than a cosmetic upgrade, and told the New York Times, “To wait for perfection at every station? Some will fall into a dangerous state of disrepair, and you will fall into my scenario of, ‘Yes it’s ADA-compliant but oops’.” As a compromise, New York City Transit has hired an outside consultant that will evaluate the cost and feasibility of bringing all of New York’s 355 inaccessible stations, or nearly 80 percent, into compliance; though so far, retrofitting these stations has been an uphill battle. The first $240 million dispersed from the initiative will go towards renovating a set of highly trafficked stations in Manhattan. The 23rd Street and 57th Street stations on the Sixth Avenue lines, the Lexington Avenue line's 28th Street station, the 34th Street-Penn Station, the 145th Street station in Manhattan and 174th-175th Street and 167th Street Grand Concourse line stations in the Bronx will all undergo modernization. While a start date for the construction hasn’t been announced yet, all of the aforementioned stations except Penn will be closed for the duration. Although subway service work typically lasts six months on average, no exact length for the repairs was given.
On the left are stations getting Cuomo makeovers. On the right is the list of stations NYC thinks are most in need of repairs. List courtesy of @NYC_DOT/MTA brd mbr Polly Trottenberg pic.twitter.com/mYjocDNgYC— Dan Rivoli (@danrivoli) January 24, 2018
Picture New York, 2040: Buses replace the subway at night, but when they’re open, subways are quieter, wheelchair-accessible, and clean. Everyone’s ditched tiny apartments for cozy mother-in-law units, built into single- family suburban homes. Working in the Bronx and living in Brooklyn isn’t a two-hour slog anymore, because there is rail service from Co-op City to Sunset Park. Craving fresh air? The national park in the New Jersey Meadowlands is a one-train ride from Queens, or there’s a long-haul hike from the Catskills to the Pinelands. This is a sliver of the tristate future envisioned by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit Manhattan-based organization that periodically analyzes the region from exurbs to downtowns to generate recommendations for a thriving future. When all 782 towns and cities in the tri-state area do their own planning and zoning, true regional planning seems daunting. The almost 400-page doorstopper of a plan, the RPA’s fourth since 1922, contains recommendations on a range of issues, from closing health disparities to fairer school redistricting and property tax reform, to making it easier to reverse-commute or travel from suburb to suburb without a car. The New York-New Jersey–Connecticut area is home to 23 million people, and only a third of them live in New York City proper. With that distribution in mind, the RPA identified four top priorities that affect everyone’s life. The group believes that, for the next 25 years, a thriving region depends on fixing the MTA, constructing more affordable housing to prevent displacement, building equity in one of the most unequal regions in the area, and adapting to rising sea levels. “Our plans carry zero weight of law, but they are very influential,” RPA President Tom Wright told reporters at a November briefing. It’s not possible to analyze all of the plan’s 61 prescriptions here, but there are key takeaways for architects, planners, and policymakers who live and practice in the region. The idea that the subway needs a total overhaul is a no-brainer to anyone who has been late due to massive train delays. To improve the system, the group wants to reconsider around-the-clock subway service. Surface transit would replace trains between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. on weeknights, as only 1.5 percent of daily riders use the service during these four and a half hours, almost 20 percent of the day. Ending 24/7 service, the RPA argues, would allow the beleaguered MTA to make needed repairs faster, now that there are more riders than ever. New Yorkers didn’t take kindly to the idea. Commuters took to Twitter to denounce “the worst idea ever,” and even Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in, calling full service a “birthright.” If current trends continue, the city’s growth rate from 2015– 2040 will be half of its 1990–2015 rate, but NYC officials say the city doesn’t have enough infrastructure to support more than nine million residents, even though the RPA believes the region (including NYC) could accommodate four million more people and add two million jobs. The organization argues that more and better transit options— and more affordable housing— will prevent the region from turning into California’s Bay Area and make it easier to grow inclusively. Packed trains and sky-high rents reflect many people’s desire to live in the New York City area, but unchecked housing costs could put a damper on growth. Adding more units—two million more— would alleviate the real estate crunch over 25 years. To meet demand, the RPA estimates that changing zoning near train stations could allow 250,000 homes to be created just on surface parking near rail lines while maintaining the neighborhood balance of schools and social spaces. Reforming zoning restrictions could also encourage homeowners to create accessory dwellings units (mother-in-law apartments) within the existing building envelope, while NYC’s 12 FAR cap could be lifted to build up density. Value capture from real estate development, especially those that benefit from big-ticket projects, could fund affordable housing near transit. All housing construction will be in vain, however, if the region doesn’t step up to address the immediate and terrifying effects of climate change. The RPA wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions via a California-style cap-and-trade plan, and convene a regional commission to help local governments adapt to extreme weather and rising seas. But, according to the RPA, the carbon pricing system we have isn’t comprehensive enough; the region should switch to California’s model, which does more to reduce emissions by covering those from buildings, transportation, power production, and industry. One million people from Connecticut to New Jersey live in areas likely to flood, and municipalities are gearing up to fight Hurricane Sandy-like storm surges. There is less emphasis, though, on the everyday flooding that’s likely to result from sea-level rise in the near future; the RPA says areas that can’t be protected should be gradually transitioned to higher ground. A tristate regional coastal commission would help communities plan for sea-level rise, and a small surcharge on property insurance would be used to fund resiliency measures like buyouts and coastal hardening. The retreat from vulnerable areas is painful for people who have built lives there, but there are opportunities in the changes. A national park in the marshy, industrial Meadowlands would provide recreation space and educate visitors on climate change mitigation. Denser Meadowlands towns like Secaucus, New Jersey, would be protected from sea-level rise, while the Teterboro Airport and surrounding communities would retreat, and nature would take over. To illustrate these recommendations more richly, the RPA applies its thinking to nine sites, imagining what they could be in 2040. In that year, Jamaica, Queens, has capitalized on its rich transit connections and proximity to JFK Airport to become a destination in its own right, while retaining its income and ethnic diversity. Further east, Long Island’s central Nassau County is a “model suburb” thanks to regionally integrated schools and a new North Shore–South Shore rail link that’s made it easier to access job centers in Hempstead and Garden City. “Nothing is off the table,” Wright said.
City and MTA reveal alternate transit plans for L train shutdown
Last night the two agencies in charge of transit in New York kicked off an open house series for the public to learn more about plans to move commuters between Brooklyn and Manhattan during the 15-month L train shutdown. The events are being held over four weeks in neighborhoods that will be most impacted by the closure.About 70 people filled the cafeteria of Williamsburg's Progress High School for the first open house, which was jointly hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT). Employees of both agencies stood by boards outlining transit options, science fair–style, as members of the public approached to ask questions about the bus, train, ferry, and bike routes that will carry them to Manhattan and back. The shutdown begins April 2019. During that time, the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will close so workers can replace infrastructure that was damaged by flooding from 2012's Hurricane Sandy. Each weekday, 225,000 riders move through the tunnel, and 50,000 rides take the L just in Manhattan. The agencies are in the process of soliciting community feedback on the transit options; no plan has been determined yet. In Brooklyn, proposed changes include three-person HOV restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge during peak hours, as well as new protected bike and bus lanes to ferry riders between the J/Z/M and G trains, L-adjacent lines the city expects 70 to 80 percent of affected riders will utilize to get across the river. Work is being done to ensure these lines can handle additional capacity, and the bus routes could be upgraded to give buses priority over private vehicles. The city estimates an additional 5 to 15 percent will use buses only, with new Williamsburg Bridge–bound buses, dubbed L1, L2, and L3, slated to carry approximately 30,000 riders, or 13 percent of the weekday total. After that, the agencies say five percent of straphangers will switch to the ferry, two percent will cycle to work, and between three and ten percent of riders may use taxis or ride-sharing services for their commute. In Manhattan, 14th Street (the crosstown thoroughfare under which the L train runs) would be converted into a busway, with only local private car access allowed. A block south, protected two-way bike lanes would be added to 13th Street to accomodate cyclists headed to and from the Williamsburg Bridge, which touches down on the Lower East Side. The next public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 31, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan.
Residents had many questions—and more than a few concerns—about the proposed routes. "The main impetus of the plan is to keep people out of North Brooklyn," said Felice Kirby, a longtime Williamsburg resident and board member of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "There are a couple of thousand small businesses and manufacturers who, along with residents, made this area famous. We're in a lot of trouble if people can't get into our area to eat, shop, and work." She grilled an MTA official on why ferry service wasn't being expanded to increase the percentage of L-train riders who might use the boats to get to work."It's a timid and meek approach," she added.
Lifelong Williamsburg resident Vikki Cambos has already started thinking about alternative travel plans. Though she lives off the Grand St L and works off Hewes Street J/M, she is weighing the shutdown as she job-searches. "I don't want something directly off the L, because that will be a headache," Cambos said. As another option, she's considering jobs in lower and upper Manhattan that are easily accessible by trains other than the L. She's worried too that the proposed shuttle will add crowds in a neighborhood that's already undergone extensive gentrification. "I'm excited to see people move out," she said. Jeff Csicsek, a software engineer who volunteers with the North Brooklyn arm of transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, wants Grand Street in Brooklyn to be for bikes, buses, and pedestrians only—no private cars allowed. He cited Downtown Brooklyn's no-car Fulton Street, one of the city’s most profitable retail corridors, as an example of how the streetscape could be retooled to favor pedestrians and mass transit on Grand. "I don't think it's physical changes [that are needed] so much as policy," he said. "A do-not-enter sign for private cars would make this actually work." Even Andy Byford, the newly-appointed president of MTA New York City Transit, showed up to hear the public's questions. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was also in attendance. "We simply have to get this right," he told a small crowd of reporters. The MTA, he added, is soliciting community feedback to decide on final transit options. "The plan is not set in stone," he said. This post has been updated with the MTA's map of possible transit alternatives during the shutdown.