Months after hosting contentious meetings in the West Village and Williamsburg on the looming L train shutdown, the MTA and Department of Transportation finally got around to facing the residents of Canarsie on Wednesday night. Around 100 people turned out for the town hall to seek answers from transit officials about the 15-month shutdown, and to offer some suggestions of their own.
Many of those in attendance said they had heard about the tunnel repairs, but were still not aware of what their options would be for commuting to the city come April.
"I'm wondering, do I have to drive now?" said Barry Cannon, 64, who takes the L train from Canarsie to 14th Street and transfers to midtown every day. He planned to ask the MTA about possibly offering reduced fares on the express buses. (The MTA says they will not be reducing the $6.50 fares.)
"It's really going to mess up a lot of people," he added. "We have a lot of elderlies. They take the train every day. They can't use the bike lane. I'm here to try to understand more."
This is the second town hall the MTA has held in Canarsie, although the first one since 2016 when the transit authority was still debating whether the shutdown would last 18 or 36 months.
Veronica Mejia, a nurse who lives in Canarsie, commutes via the L train to work in Harlem. The ride currently takes her two hours, which she fears could stretch to three hours during the shutdown.
"I was even thinking of changing jobs trying to relocate, but I happen to like where I am," Mejia said. "I happen to like the people I work with."
Others expressed concerns about overcrowding at Broadway Junction, which is where the MTA is suggesting people transfer to the A/C and J/Z lines. The station will have a limited amount of additional cars to accommodate more riders, although the authority doesn't plan to expand the station itself.
"You have posters out there and handouts, but people don't read them," Faith Williams said.
"This plan can only work if we get the basics right, the operation right, but also we must excel at customer information,” New York City Transit President Andy Byford said in response. The agency has been criticized in recent weeks for failing to keep customers abreast of upcoming disruptions—including a planned stoppage of service on much of the L line for 15 weekends ahead of the actual shutdown.
Charmaine Corney, 42, lives in Canarsie and commutes to Lower Manhattan, either by car, train, or the BM2 express bus. Speaking at the town hall, she asked if the MTA could get ferry service to run between Canarsie pier and Manhattan.
The transit officials did not respond to her question.
"They just launched one today in Soundview in the Bronx, of all places. They didn't have a pier before. We have a pier. We need a boat," she told WNYC after the town hall.
Corney said she was disappointed that her suggestion was not addressed by either Byford or a representative from the Department of Transportation.
"This just seems like a check the box situation—the decisions have already been made," Corney said. "This was a PR event, but I hope the things we said were taken to heart...I know they don't care what my opinion is. There's no consideration being given to the Canarsie pier...we should have a ferry, we should be able to utilize it and it will decrease the emissions in the neighborhood."
MTA spokesman Shams Tarek did respond to an inquiry from WNYC about Corney's question.
"This plan is the result of a massive, years-long community outreach program and yes elements of it are from suggestions. Sometimes suggestions are made that we were already thinking of and sometimes they’re purely new," Tarek wrote in a statement.
The town hall was initiated by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who was also on the dais.