New York City Transit president Andy Byford made an unusual appearance at Manhattan's Community Board 3 transportation committee meeting on Tuesday night to offer his assurances that he’s not rubber-stamping Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new L train repair plan.

Typically, Byford only attends higher profile events like town halls and dispatches underlings to small community board meetings. But he told the roughly three dozen residents of CB3, which encompasses the Lower East Side from 14th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge, that he came in person because “I owe it to the community to come out and explain to you as best I can what we know about what has changed and to go through what hasn't changed.”

Byford, it's becoming increasingly clear, has as many questions about the plan as average New Yorkers, even as he has publicly endorsed the new timetable. And he declined to guarantee that the full L train shutdown is definitely off. “We know a lot,” Byford told Gothamist before the meeting began, “but there’s still a lot we don’t know.”

After briefly outlining what the new plan entails—all that stuff about the bench wall and polymers and racking cables none of us had ever heard of six days ago but now are completely sick of hearing about—Byford outlined three areas of the new plan for which he will be performing “due diligence”: safety, operations, and customer service.

On the safety front, Byford is convening an engineering team, which he promises will be independent not just of the MTA but of New York politics, to review the new plan and ensure it does not jeopardize anyone’s safety. But he has not yet determined who will be the independent reviewers or when their report—which he promises to publicly release—will be done. At the same time, his team at Transit will review how often the MTA can run L trains on nights and weekends when one of the two tubes is closed, what alternate service should be provided, and how best to communicate those changes to riders.

“It will take as long as it takes,” Byford told the board meeting regarding his due diligence checks. “I will not be steamrolled.”

Indeed, Byford repeatedly assured the Lower East Side residents that he is of an independent mind and will not serve as a rubber stamp for somebody else’s plan without vetting it himself.

Only about a half-dozen people asked Byford any questions after his initial remarks. Most of the questions focused on what would happen to the new bike lanes and 14th Street busway that had planned to ease commutes during a full L train shutdown. The bike lanes are entirely up to the Department of Transportation, said Byford, while the future of the 14th Street Select Bus Service will be a joint decision. (DOT had not replied to a Gothamist email by publication time.)

In the meantime, Byford will deliver an interim report to present to the MTA board’s next meeting on January 24th, incorporating whatever he has learned by then. Cuomo initially proposed the board hold an emergency meeting on the L issue, but Byford told CB3 that it would take so long to arrange one that the next board meeting would come around by then, so “there’s really kind of no point.”

Immediately following Thursday’s announcement by the governor, interim MTA chairman Freddy Ferrer announced the agency had accepted the expert panel’s recommendations for the L repairs. But when asked directly if the L shutdown is definitely off, Byford stopped short of that, saying he’s putting a “slightly different angle” on that announcement.

Byford stressed that while he welcomes the recommendations, he wants to review and potentially “refine or finesse some of the detail around that.” Plus, he noted, the board, at least in theory, could still reject the plan. He also reported that he met Tuesday morning with an administrator at the Federal Transportation Administration, which is giving the MTA $500 million towards the tunnel rehabilitation, who told him that the federal agency does not yet know how the change of plans will impact that funding. (The FTA has not replied to a Gothamist inquiry, because of the government shutdown.)

While most of the community board members who spoke sounded reassured by Byford’s presence, transportation committee member Lee Berman said that the abrupt shift in the L repair plan is emblematic of “why there’s a major lack of faith in the MTA.” He echoed concerns others have voiced over the last several days, including why the MTA did not come up with this new plan themselves at an earlier date.

Byford replied that the MTA did in fact consider several aspects of the new plan at the outset, but added that newer technology such as the structural integrity monitoring system for the bench wall made it now feasible when it had not been before. Berman didn’t buy it, going on to call MTA customer service “horrendous.”

But Berman’s attitude was very much in the minority. Nearly every other speaker, including East Side councilmember Carlina Rivera, commended Byford for his presence and urged him to continue updating the community as he learns more.

Several members of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives in attendance urged Byford to keep the 14th Street Busway in place despite the change in plans. “Even before the L train shutdown came in, the 14th Street buses were in a dire need to be upgraded and redone,” said TA activist Choresh Wald. “If the opportunity is here, the design is here, you can work with DOT to do that, to have a real busway on 14th Street.”

Byford assured the small crowd he wants more Select Bus Service, and relayed that Polly Trottenberg, the DOT commissioner, shares that opinion. As if to prove his bona fides, he added that he’s never owned a car in life, which received a round of applause. But Byford stopped short of making any commitment for expanded SBS, since DOT first has to agree to keep 14th Street designated as a busway. Local activists who opposed the bike and bus lanes are already urging the city to reverse course.

Chelsea Skye, an organizer for Transportation Alternatives, was making her case for the busway and alluded to the plan that had been changed “a few weeks ago” before catching herself. “Or last week? Wow, it’s been a long week,” she said. Byford looked over to a few other NYCT employees who had accompanied him to the meeting. With a big smile, he nodded and quietly mouthed, “Tell me about it.”