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Williamsburg Businesses Implore MTA to Postpone L Train Weekend Shutdowns

By Serena Dai | March 24, 2015 2:37pm
 Businesses off the L train said that the spring is critical for business to pick up after a rough winter of sales.
Businesses off the L train said that the spring is critical for business to pick up after a rough winter of sales.
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Serena Dai/DNAinfo

WILLIAMSBURG — Business owners along the L train route are petitioning the MTA to postpone a five-weekend shutdown scheduled to begin in April, fearing it will dampen spring business after a rough winter of sales.

The shutdowns, which will halt L train service between Bedford Avenue and Eighth Avenue from April 18 to May 18, will happen just as foot traffic picks up and revives cash flow, business owners said.

"Spring is like the height — that’s the peak," said Joseph Franquinha, owner of Crest Hardware and Urban Garden Center at 558 Metropolitan Ave., who relies on the spring gardening season for business.

"That’s when a lot of the people get out of the red from a very tough January, February, March. April is really go time," he continued. "To transport the humans here, the L train is our main artery. You cut off this artery, you're cutting off our livelihood."

As of Tuesday morning, 80 people had signed the online petition, imploring the MTA to push back the scheduled shut downs to August, when they say business tends to slow down.

Local store owners have also been passing around a paper version of the petition, which has about 100 signatures already.

Ellen Rand, owner of Art 101 Gallery at 101 Grand St., called spring weekends "the height of the art season," because that's when galleries usually get a steady stream of international buyers, she said.

Only having the JMZ available to take people from Manhattan to Williamsburg won't be enough, she added.

"It's not appealing to have to go find a new subway, to get on a bus, to not know where you're going," she said. "There's no reasonable alternative."

But the MTA said rescheduling isn't an option, because it would affect planned work for the J, Z and G lines.

During the shutdown, a shuttle bus will run from the Lorimer Street L train station to the Marcy Avenue JM station, with a stop at the Bedford Avenue L station.

"This is vital work that needs to be done in order to keep the line in a state of good repair to provide safe, reliable service," the MTA said in a statement.

But business owners are still hoping they can convice the MTA to consider the consequences and postpone the repairs.

For Lexi Oliveri, owner of vintage shop Antoinette at 119 Grand St., it's been a particularly bad winter. Sales have dipped by 20 percent compared to past winters, she said.

She usually expects business to double once spring hits, and like many other local retailers, her shop sees a lot of tourists who tend to come from Union Square. Many of her loyal customers also use the L from further out in Brooklyn to reach the store, she said.

"There’s got to be an alternative," Oliveri said.

Update: The L train will stop running for five weekends starting April 18. An MTA spokesperson initially misstated the dates of the shutdown.