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De Blasio Questions MTA's Plan to Shut the L Train For 18 Months

By Jeff Mays | July 29, 2016 2:56pm
 An MTA New York City transit subway L train. Aug. 13, 2013.
An MTA New York City transit subway L train. Aug. 13, 2013.
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DNAinfo/Michael Ip

MIDTOWN — Mayor Bill de Blasio questioned whether the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's plan to shutdown the L train for 18 months is necessary.

"It’s a long time. And we’re certainly going to push hard to see — does it really have to be so long? Is there any other way to go about this?" de Blasio said Friday morning on Brian Lehrer show on WNYC.

"Most important point here is that we have to push the MTA to confirm — do they really need to do it that way? Are there better alternatives? And what are they going to do to maximize the alternatives that they can provide — buses and other things they can provide — for those riders?" the mayor added.

De Blasio's comments come after MTA officials announced earlier this week that they planned to shut down the L train between Bedford Avenue and 8th Avenue for 18 months starting in 2019.

The complete shutdown of service between Manhattan and Brooklyn will allow repairs on the Canarsie Tunnel which the L train uses to travel under the East River.

The MTA has yet to announce alternatives for commuters on the line which carries 400,000 passengers per day and has seen growth in recent years, especially at stops such as Bedford Avenue.

Approximately 225,000 passengers make use of the tunnel per day and a large number of riders use the train to go crosstown along 14th street. Approximately 50,000 riders use the train for travel solely in Manhattan and another 125,000 passengers travel solely in Brooklyn.

Straphangers who use the line are worried about crowded commutes and businesses in Williamsburg are concerned the shutdown will affect their bottom line by limiting customers from Manhattan.

De Blasio twice reminded listeners that he does not control the MTA and that the agency does things "that are not pleasing to us as New Yorkers."

"The primary responsibility for mitigation, for providing alternatives — falls on the state and the MTA — and obviously buses along the route would be the most obvious," de Blasio said. "But it’s a tough situation. It’s a very crowded line. It’s an area where it’s hard to get buses around compared to some others. So we’re going to look at different things we can do."

De Blasio took issue with the fact that alternatives have yet to be announced.

"So, this decision — although I’m sure it has a practical, underlying rationale — announcing it without a plan to deal with the impact is troubling to me," de Blasio said.

Beth DeFalco, the MTA spokeswoman, disputed the mayor's remarks. The MTA held four community meetings with members of the city's Department of Transportation to explain the options for repairing the tunnel.

"The MTA is in constant contact with the city about ways to minimize impacts of the closure. The city was consulted throughout the process, understood the 18-month full closure decision before it was announced and raised no red flags," DeFalco said.

De Blasio and Cuomo are involved in an ongoing feud and have publicly argued over other MTA issues such as shutting the subways during a snow storm and how to fund the agency's capital plan.

The mayor said citywide ferry service, slated to start in the summer of 2017, could help ease the situation and that the city might adjust schedules. The city also has not made a decision about closing 14th Street to cars, although de Blasio described the idea as a "big" decision.

"We’ve only just begun to think about what we might do. It’s not one that on first blush sounds to me easy, given how important 14th Street is," de Blasio said.