L Train

Photo: Roshan Vyes/Flickr

In 2012 Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $62 billion in damage to the Eastern coastline of the United States. Locally, severe flooding damaged many buildings but also several of the underground tunnels in NYC’s vast subway system.

In addition to many stations being entirely flooded, the heavy downpour caused extensive tunnel damage along several train lines, most notably the N/R and L lines. While repairs on the N/R line have been completed, the MTA recently revealed its plan to repair the damaged 92-year-old Canarsie Tube along the popular L train route. It would include a total shutdown of the L train from Bedford Avenue from Brooklyn into Manhattan, essentially stranding many Brooklyn residents. While the train will still operate in Brooklyn, commuters will now have to find alternative means of getting into Manhattan during the shutdown.

We dug into some of the major concerns expressed by affected commuters and Brooklyn residents below:

1. The real estate market in Williamsburg will take a major hit.

Since Williamsburg was rezoned in 2005, it has seen unprecedented gentrification as vacant waterfront properties have been transformed into luxury condos and real estate prices have soared. Williamsburg, once home to artists and an influential indie music scene, has now priced out many of its long term residents. The ease of commute into Manhattan on the L train has been a major selling point.

But according to the New York Times, many insiders are concerned the shutdown will derail the current building and buying boom. So far, at least, there is a silver lining. More homebuyers are bargaining for more concessions and sellers are being more flexible due to the shutdown. Whether or not savvy buyers will jump at the chance to get in on one of Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods at a better than asking price, knowing sufficient travel alternatives will exist and the shutdown is in fact short-term, still remains to be seen.

2. Local businesses will not survive 18 months of decreased sales from lack of tourist dollars.

Williamsburg’s bustling nightlife attracts many Manhattanites to hop the L train to take advantage of the abundance of hip bars and restaurants. Business owners fear the loss of revenue will be devastating when Manhattanites can no longer conveniently make the short trek into Williamsburg.

However, several local business owners told DNAinfo.com the shutdown may actually be a good thing for the neighborhood by encouraging residents to “go local” and shop within their own neighborhoods. In a move often seen in tourist heavy cities like Las Vegas, where off-season can be a difficult time to attract customers, Williamsburg businesses aim to target local residents with deals and specials to keep their dollars in Williamsburg — and keep their businesses open.

3. The MTA will not provide adequate alternatives for Brooklyn commuters and Manhattan tourists.

While nothing specific has been announced by the MTA, which has cited the need to study how to best plan to provide more than 220,000 commuters viable alternatives, stranded riders have been told to expect to see additional trains running on the nearby J, M, Z and G lines. The MTA says those trains will operate with more frequency and additional cars to handle the increased ridership. Shuttle buses are also being proposed to take commuters into downtown Manhattan via the Williamsburg Bridge. The MTA, for its part, appears to recognize the need to provide efficient and viable ride alternatives for those affected.

4. The project’s length will exceed the proposed 18 months.

While many factors remain out of the MTA’s hands seems committed to just 18 months of shutdown — or less. Similar repairs, along the N/R line took a mere 12 months. Riders, and indeed the MTA, seem to be hoping the repairs on the Canarsie Tube can be done in actually less than the proposed 18 months. According to the Gothamist, the MTA plans to offer incentives to contractors to get the repairs done ahead of schedule.

5. Manhattan riders will be ignored in the shuffle.

Ridership on the L train isn’t confined to just Brooklyn commuters. In Manhattan, the line stretches from West 14th Street at 8th Avenue to East 14th and 1st Avenue, five stops in all. Barring a ride on the M14 bus, many riders will have to find alternative ways to get across town. Citibike, Uber, taxi or simply walking are all viable alternatives and are currently available, but the MTA is looking into not leaving these riders in the cold. According to Slate, several proposals are being considered from a redesigned transit route along 14th Street, including a “car-free zone” that would make for both faster bus and bike travel, and additional bus lines along 14th Street.

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