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Williamsburg Businesses and Pols Want MTA to Lessen Blow of L Train Cuts

By Meredith Hoffman | February 17, 2012 10:57am
Business owners and elected officials met Thursday to discuss L train cuts.
Business owners and elected officials met Thursday to discuss L train cuts.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

WILLIAMSBURG — Elected officials and local leaders frustrated over weekend L train closures have offered the MTA proposals to prevent what they believe are devastating effects on business in the area.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, State Senator Daniel Squadron and dozens of local business owners met Thursday at Cubana Social on North 6 Street to discuss the weekend shutdown of L service from Eighth Avenue in Manhattan to Broadway Junction in Bushwick. The businesses rely on consumers who take the train in from Manhattan.

"We have 2,000 to 3,000 people each weekend for our tours, and we lose about 10 to 15 percent of that business," said Brooklyn Brewery founder and president Steve Hindy, adding that restaurants that sell the beer are hit even harder.

The group has urged the MTA to come up with alternate plans. When the transit authority must shut down service, the group suggested free ferry service; overnight closures rather weekend shutdowns; and provisions against closing the L train while G or 7 service is also out, among other recommendations.

Service on the L line will be out for construction on Feb. 25-27 and March 3-5. It will shut down at Friday at midnight (or technically 12 a.m. on Saturday) through Monday at 5 a.m. each weekend.

The upcoming service disruptions are not the first time business owners say they have been inconvenienced. On the weekend after Thanksgiving, Dave Rosen said his Bedford Avenue restaurant, Masten Lake, took an 80 percent hit in sales.

"It seems negligent to shut down the L train on the busiest shopping weekend all year," Rosen said. 

Lentol also plans to propose a bill mandating against L train cuts on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

"They should know better," he said.

But MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz said the transit authority prioritizes community concerns in scheduling, and claimed that the Thanksgiving work was necessary to make up for a past construction delay due to bad weather.

"It is always a challenge to find time to do critical maintenance on our 24/7 maintenance system," he wrote in an email.

"We work hard to take community needs into consideration but in this case," he added, referring to the weekend after Thanksgiving, "the work had to be done at that time."

The upcoming closures, Ortiz added, is to avoid shutting down the line leading up to an arts festival on March 16.

"This work involves the replacement of a century-old signaling system with a modern Communications Based Train Control system (CBTC), offering the benefits of smoother operation, increased capacity and more reliable service," Ortiz said.  

Ortiz said the group's proposal of overnight service instead of weekend disruption was not possible because the work requires segments of 50 consecutive hours. Further, the MTA already avoids doing work on the G and L simultaneously.

Meanwhile, the MTA is in the process of "adding additional trains" to other parts of the L line, Ortiz added.