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Williamsburg Straphangers Demand Relief From L and G Trains Outage

By Meredith Hoffman | November 6, 2012 7:13am | Updated on November 6, 2012 7:48am

WILLIAMSBURG — Robin Mandelbaum groaned with despair when she arrived at the Marcy Avenue stop Monday morning to find the M train skidding away across the Williamsburg Bridge.

Mandelbaum, who lives in Greenpoint, had already been turned away by three packed buses, gotten lost riding her bicycle, and turned up on the wrong side of the Marcy Avenue station in the past hour.

"It sucks. They should put up one or the other," Mandelbaum, who works in sales in Manhattan, said of the G and L train lines. "I usually take the L at Bedford Avenue."

Commuters' frustration with the MTA's indefinite outage of the cross-Brooklyn G train and the L line in the wake of Hurricane Sandy has left residents of Williamsburg, Bushwick and parts of Greenpoint to fight over space on scarce M or J trains to Manhattan. 

As of Tuesday morning, nearly 2,700 people had signed a new petition demanding a shuttle bus to replace the down lines. 

The petition, which City Councilwoman Tish James and Lincoln Restler have sent to the MTA Chair Joseph Lhota, calls the trains "lifelines for hundreds of thousands of Brooklynites" and requests the bus to "connect stranded residents to active subway lines" until the G and L are restored.

"My husband and I both need the L and G to get to work and to get our baby and toddler to their daycare in Manhattan," resident Lisa Rapaport wrote on the petition.

And while residents and politicians said the flooded subway tunnel certainly warranted a train closure, they claimed it was the MTA's responsibility to provide some sort of transport. 

The MTA said it was doing everything it can, and that extra buses had been added on the B62 route to offer additional service.

"The top subway priority is now restoring service on the G and L trains through northwest Brooklyn, where alternate service on the J and M trains was extremely crowded," said an MTA spokesman. "The G tunnel under Newtown Creek has been pumped out but extensive work remains to repair the signal system. The L tunnel under the East River is still being pumped."

But Williamsburg Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said he had received an overwhelming amount of complaints from his office about the down trains.

"My phones have begun to overheat from calls...regarding the G line being the only line still completely suspended and the limited service on the L line," he said in an email statement. "I have called upon Chairman Lhota to institute emergency shuttle buses that can transport residents to those lines currently operating."

The dilemma with the down trains follows months of advocates' struggles to improve service of the G train, which residents have criticized for unreliable service and formed a blog to vent their frustration.

A spokesman for the MTA did not respond immediately to emails requesting comment.

Commuters tried a vast variety of transportation alternatives Monday morning to get to work with the G and L down, including riding buses, bicycling, walking and taking different trains.

Resident Chris Deb, who typically uses the L train, tried riding the J train but went to work later than normal to avoid the mass of commuters who would be using the train since there were no other options.

"I knew it'd be really backed up," he said.

Jordan Dimaggio did not even try the train, but instead walked across the bridge to her job in SoHo.

"Until everything is back up and running I'm walking," she said as she prepared to brave the windy morning over the bridge.

Other residents said they felt completely disconnected from Manhattan with the L train out of service.

"I haven't left Brooklyn in days," said one Williamsburg local who declined to give her name. 

But Cole Barash, 25, a photographer who hadn't ridden a bike "in months," was eager to try his friend's borrowed two-wheeler as he prepared to cycle across the Williamsburg Bridge for "work errands."

"It'll be a chance to get outside," he said smiling.