The details about a looming long-term suspension of L train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan are slowly becoming more of a reality, after the initial news that the Canarsie tube under the East River would be partially or completely closed for between one and three years. At Brooklyn Community Board 1's full board meeting last night, City Councilman Stephen Levin, whose constituents include residents of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, said that the repairs could actually take substantially more time: two years with a complete shutdown, and up to seven years if work is limited to nights and weekends.
"It's going to be significantly disruptive, whether you're talking about a full shutdown, which is kind of mind boggling to me to think about...that would be probably two years," Levin said at Tuesday's meeting. "If you’re looking at just nights and weekends, that’s more, like, five, six, seven years, so we’re talking significant, significant work."
Levin's disclosure was the result of the first meeting between high level MTA staff and elected officials about the potential shutdown. On February 5th, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast and New York City Transit President Veronique Hakim met with Levin, Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, Senator Martin Malavé Dilan, Senator Daniel Squadron, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and Borough President Eric Adams to discuss the damage to the Canarsie tube that occurred during Hurricane Sandy.
As Lentol told the Daily News, there are several plans under serious consideration. One would close the Canarsie tube completely for at least 18 months. Another option would close just one of the two tunnels that comprise the Canarsie tube, allowing continued service between Brooklyn and Manhattan—albeit at less frequent intervals—and taking at least three years. A third alternative, limiting tunnel work to nights and weekends, would allow regular daytime service but would take at least five and, as Levin said, as many as seven years.
Lentol said that work will likely begin in 2018. At Tuesday night's meeting, Levin emphasized the importance of starting sooner rather than later, given the currently available federal funds for Sandy recovery.
"We have federal funds right now, about $700 million of federal funds, for Sandy recovery that can be dedicated to this, so that’s the lion’s share of what it would cost to do a significant amount of work there, and that’s not money you can always count on being there, to be honest with you," Levin said. "We don't know what's going to happen with a new administration on the federal level, so...probably the prudent thing to do is to start looking ahead as soon as possible on how to do this."
The MTA did not immediately respond to request for confirmation of the updated estimates on how long repairs to the tube will take. In a statement released after the meeting between elected officials and MTA staff, the MTA said that it has committed "to meet regularly with residents, businesses and others affected by the Canarsie Tube work, as well as to consult with elected officials representing the affected areas, before making any decisions about the construction process and service alternatives."
However, according to a spokesperson for Maloney's office, no timetable for these meetings has been set.
"The potential for closings does sound as catastrophic as we were concerned," Felice Kirby, one of the organizers behind the L Train Coalition who heard Levin's announcement at Tuesday night's meeting, said. "We need to see metrics. This is a world that's driven by data and science and we look forward to hearing why the problems might require or best be solved with a total shutdown, and what the extent of the damage is. It sounds very dramatic."
Kirby added that the MTA's forthrightness (or lack thereof) so far is "a sad beginning of a working relationship."
The coalition, which is composed of business owners, residents, and commuters who rely on L train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, is set to meet on Wednesday, February 24th at 6:30 p.m. at 211 Ainslie Street to continue organizing against a total shutdown. Capacity is limited, so show up early to ensure a spot.