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East River Gondola Plan Returns as L Train Shutdown Looms

 Dan Levy of real estate site CityRealty wants to use trams to connect Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
Dan Levy of real estate site CityRealty wants to use trams to connect Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
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East River Skyway

WILLIAMSBURG — The man behind a proposal to connect Williamsburg and Lower Manhattan with a cable car system hopes his idea will find new traction now that an L train shutdown could cut off traffic between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Daniel Levy, president of the real estate website CityRealty, first floated the idea for the East River Skyway in 2014 and has been drumming up support from investors and working on putting together a board of interested parties, he said.

And now with plans for L train construction work to cut the Brooklyn-Manhattan artery as early as 2019, the pressure is on.

"It's not going to be easy to get [it done] but it's certainly not impossible," he said, adding that in London, a similar gondola system went up on a time crunch before the Olympics in 2012. "It's certainly well within reach."

In comparison with other major infrastructure projects like bridges or tunnels, "the cable car system is very simple," Levy said.

"It's very light weight, three or four towers, and a cable between them."

The Skyway would have capacity to take about 200,000 passengers from Williamsburg to Lower Manhattan each day and a monthly unlimited pass would cost around $25, he said.

The L train currently shuttles about 300,000 passengers a day between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Cars would arrive every 30 seconds and fit about 40 people, according to Levy. They'd transport passengers from Williamsburg to Delancey Street in less than five minutes.

"It just completely changes the way both of those neighborhoods are able to connect with one another," he said. 

The biggest investment would be the stations, he said.

For Lower Manhattan, Levy's plans include building a station above Delancey Street that would connect either side of Sarah Roosevelt Park that sits between Chrystie and Forsyth streets. 

They'd first planned on having one station in Williamsburg by the waterfront, but since news of the L train shutdown broke, they've expanded to include a second station at the bus depot at the base of the bridge.

The project would cost up to $134 million, according to estimates from engineers, Levy said, and he's looking to fund it entirely through private investors.

The MTA says it needs to shut down the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn for an extended period of time in order to repair the Canarsie Tube that was damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

A full shutdown would take 18 months, while a shutdown of one tunnel at a time would take three years, with limited service that entire time.

The MTA is hosting two public meetings to discuss the L train shutdown. The first will take place on May 5 at 6 p.m. in the Marcy Avenue Armory. The second meeting is scheduled for May 12 at 5 p.m. in the Salvation Army Theatre near Union Square.