“Suck it up,” suggest commuters living in “subway deserts,” helpfully, to north Brooklyn straphangers in the headline of a recent New York Times article about the impending shutdown of L train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan's west side.
“New Yorkers living in so-called subway deserts have a message: Welcome to the club,” the paper of record reports.
Okay... While “suck it up” is a great quote, “New Yorkers” didn’t say it, as the headline suggests. One New Yorker, singular, did: Philippe Pierre, 26, who lives in Rosedale, Queens and takes a dollar van (which actually costs $2) and two trains to get to work in Columbus Circle.
Further, none of those quoted in the story actually say that those living along the L line should “get used to” terrible public transit. They mostly just complain about their own terrible experiences with public transit and offer solid advice for anyone who uses trains or buses to get anywhere in this city.
“You never know what’s going to happen with the bus; I suggest leaving early,” says Harvinder Singh, a student who commutes to Queens College from South Ozone Park. “Be prepared to stand, because there are no seats,” adds Madanlal Jaikaran, another Queens College student.
But the real problem with this Times piece is that, in its attempt to paint Williamsburg residents as spoiled rich kids, it ignores the fact that the L train stops at stations other than Bedford Avenue. “Starting in January 2019, Manhattan-bound residents of North and East Williamsburg in Brooklyn will temporarily join the ranks of those without convenient subway access when the L tunnel under the East River is closed to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy,” the Times notes.
What the Times chooses to deemphasize is that residents of Bushwick, Ridgewood, East New York, Brownsville and Canarsie will also join the ranks of those with longer commutes once the L train stops going into Manhattan.
Of course, snickering at Williamsburg hipsters and their so-called "struggles" is a timeless New York media pastime. How will they get to their jobs as curators of galleries nobody ever goes into in Chelsea? Or home from their precious nightclubs in the Meatpacking District?
If you focus only on the NY Times depiction of Williamsburg, it's easy to forget that most Williamsburg residents aren’t “rich.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Brooklyn Community District 1, which covers Greenpoint and Williamsburg, was $47,229 from 2010 to 2012, the most recent years for which data are available. Meanwhile, in Queens Community District 3, which covers Jackson Heights and North Corona, the median household income for the same period was only slightly lower—$46,119—while in Staten Island Community District 2, which covers New Springville and South Beach, another “subway desert,” the median household income was much higher, at $72,041.
And Williamsburg is one of the most rent-burdened neighborhoods in the city. According to StreetEasy, the median income-to-rent ratio in Williamsburg is an astounding 85.3 percent. In fact, in all but one of the Brooklyn neighborhoods served by the L train, the median income-to-rent ratio is higher than 50 percent. In Bushwick, it’s 80.2 percent. It’s 57.8 percent in Ridgewood, 70.3 percent in Bed-Stuy, 61.3 percent in East New York, 62 percent in Brownsville and 33.5 percent in Canarsie. In Rosedale, Queens, where Philippe Pierre lives, the median income-to-rent ratio is a much more reasonable 28.9 percent.
Obviously, spending more than half of your income on rent is bad. Being forced to commute an hour to and from work is also bad! There are both failures that stem from poor governance and poor planning. There’s no rule that says a group suffering from one of these problems deserves scorn while a group suffering from the other deserves pity.
We can all agree that both situations are bad, and both are in need of top-down corrective action—on the one hand, things like better rent control, and on the other hand, stuff like more bike lanes and prioritization of buses over cars in busy areas.