Good news for people who hate the people of Brooklyn, or at least the idea of the people of Brooklyn: Gothamist reports that forthcoming Hurricane Sandy-related repairs to the the L train, which connects Williamsburg to Manhattan, could shut the line down for at least three years.
There is a tube that cuts under the East River. It contains two tunnels, which bring the L train to and from Manhattan. The tunnel that takes the train into Brooklyn has serious seawater damage from Sandy, and so it needs to be repaired. The MTA is getting around to it soon, and will be down there for a long while.
Per Gothamist’s Chris Robbins, construction to repair the L train will begin in late 2017, and could take anywhere from one year to three years. The length of the timeline would depend on which of two bad choices the MTA picks. If they want to get it all over with as quickly as possible, they could close down both tubes and maybe be out of there within a year, though that would mean stopping service at the already-choked Bedford stop and completely cutting North Brooklyn off from its most direct route into Manhattan. Or the MTA could shut down the tunnels intermittently—most likely on weekends—or one at a time, which would mean a timeline stretching over multiple years, perhaps as many as three.
Both options present differing but equal nightmares for the residents of North Brooklyn, aside from the general nightmare that is simply living in North Brooklyn. If recent history is any indication, the MTA may choose the option that gets things done the quickest. The city recently announced that it will be closing 30 subway stations across the city for six-to-twelve months for various repairs, and as Robbins writes, a recent total shutdown of the Montague R train tunnel ended with the MTA completing Sandy-related repairs a month and $58 million under budget.
But, as Robbins also notes, the Montague R tunnel serviced only about 65,000 riders per day. The L train is closer to 350,000. MTA spokesperson Adam Lisberg told Robbins that the MTA recently decided against full shutdowns of stops on the A/C/E and F lines because they were too popular. Regardless, a bid outline for the L train repair from last year stated it would cost at least $50 million and take 40 months. The money to pay for the project comes from Sandy relief funds provided by the federal government.
But perhaps the most unknowable question of all is who exactly the L train repairs will be inconveniencing when the project gets started in “late 2017.” Development across North and East Brooklyn is, of course, continuing to skyrocket. It is taking the price of rent all over the borough along with it, but that is especially true along the L train corridor. So the answer to whose lives will be most garbled by L train construction is a complicated one. There are the Brooklyn lifers, who live in public housing in the midst of gentrification or who have been pushed down the L’s long tail out to Canarsie. The latter group’s inexorable commute into Manhattan will get even worse, and New York stopped concerning itself with the former some time ago.
Then there are the many people who don’t currently live in Williamsburg, but who will soon, and who have more money than those who currently do. Their lives will be gummed up by the temporary plugging of the L train, but those are lives they will hardly recognize anyway.
In between those two groups is upwardly mobile, white Brooklyn, whose current collective fear regarding the L’s imminent shutdown is most visible on the internet if also the silliest. Those folks will likely be pushed out and away from Williamsburg (and even Greenpoint) over the next few years and into neighborhoods that bend all manners of south. In Bushwick and Ridgewood, the L is a convenient option but the J/M/Z is even more accessible, though currently less fashionable (give it time). Bed Stuy and the rest of East New York are serviced by different lines entirely. And less people figure to be commuting into Manhattan, anyhow.
One way to look at living in contemporary Brooklyn is that it’s all one chain of upheaval. The natives nudged out or swallowed up by the gentrifiers, who themselves meet the same fate at the hands of people with better jobs and more money, who then, I guess, have to learn shuttle routes or devote even more of their income to Uber, at least for a few years. Which is to say that maybe the MTA’s L train construction will be not a major inconvenience but instead a minor Pyrrhic victory.
[image via Getty]