Residents near 14th Street worry that the subway closure will add to street congestion
By Rui Miao
Commuters are not the only people anxious about the L train closure scheduled to begin in January 2018. Downtown residents, especially those who live near 14th Street, worry about how congested their neighborhoods may become.
“I’m very concerned that 14th Street will be a permanent parking lot during the 18 months,” said Luc Nadal, who has lived on the street for 10 years, “unless we take really strong measures to tackle the problem.”
Nadal is among dozens of neighbors who showed up at a Manhattan Community Board 2 Traffic & Transportation Committee meeting on Jan. 5 to voice their concerns over the impact that the train closure will have on the area. In July 2016, the MTA officially announced the 18-month shutdown of the L train, due to a needed reconstruction of the Canarsie Tunnel flooded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Thousands of riders who rely on the downtown line will have to find alternative shuttles for their crosstown or cross-river trips.
Many worry that the vehicular traffic on 14th Street, under which the L train runs, will get out of control.
A campaign called “PeopleWay” advocates that the city and the MTA close 14th Street to private cars during the absence of the L train, making it exclusive to buses, bikes and pedestrians. “Even if we get 14th Street closed,” said Nadal, “just putting all these people who are using the L train corridor to go crosstown on buses — it’s [still] going to transform 14th street into a parking lot, unless the buses are managed in an extremely efficient way.” “Street closures fall under the purview of NYCDOT,” said Kevin Ortiz, MTA & NYC Transit Spokesman. “That being said, we are working closely with DOT to mitigate the impact of this vital work on our customers.”
“It’s a continuation of discussion that has begun in this committee,” said Terri Cude, chairwoman of CB2. Since last May, the MTA has held several community meetings in areas affected by the upcoming closure — in addition to its visits to the 11 Community Boards along the L Line, CB2 among them.
According to an announcement in late July, the MTA “plans to work closely with the city and state to develop routes and determine service levels needed to accommodate projected ridership.” To date, no plan has been revealed regarding substitute transportation for L train riders, or plans for street traffic in affected areas.
“I’ve lived on 14th Street for 20 years, between University and Fifth — really a ground zero,” said David Koch, who also attended the CB2 meeting. “We have to come up with a great, great long-term solution to the problem it is because of the traffic and residential movements — and an interim solution that really make people … say ‘New York can do it’.”
Ideas proposed at the meeting included trolley cars and Select Bus Service. The next “L train shutdown brainstorm workshop,” hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office, is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. the Hudson Guild Fulton Senior Center, on Ninth Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets. Representatives from the MTA and DOT are scheduled to attend.
“We are working closely with the MTA to look at all ways to mitigate the impacts of the L-train’s shutdown,” a DOT spokesperson said in an email. “With a focus on mass transit, bikes and ferries.”