The dreaded L train shutdown is now just six months away, but some Manhattan residents are still clinging to the notion that they can somehow dodge the worst effects of the historic transit disruption—if not by literally blocking the tunnel repairs, then by suing their way out of having to put up with hundreds of thousands of soon-to-be displaced riders.
On Monday, West Village resident and attorney Arthur Schwartz filed his second lawsuit against the MTA and the DOT, calling for yet another environmental assessment, as well as last minute changes to the agencies' sweeping mitigation plan. Specifically, Schwartz and his allies are opposed to the creation of a dedicated busway on 14th Street and an adjacent sidewalk expansion for pedestrians, along with the addition of protected bike lanes on 12th and 13th Street.
"The goal is to eliminate those bike lanes as designed, to make them not protected bike lanes or not do them at all," Schwartz told Gothamist, adding that his preference would be for the lanes to be restored to parking spaces. "I just don't think there's any genuinely demonstrated demand for people who used to take the L train who are all of a sudden going to hop on a Citi Bike."
In the past, Schwartz and other local residents have raised questions about whether the MTA is exaggerating the number of commuters who will be impacted by the shutdown, and blamed "transportation zealots" for the mitigation plan. In addition to their concerns about spillover congestion and bus pollution, the plan's opponents have cited potential damage to the West Village's "delicate infrastructure" as one of their chief concerns.
Idan Sims, a public relations specialist speaking on behalf of 14th Street Coalition, told Gothamist on Tuesday that the group supports the new lawsuit, because it would lead to "less impingement on the quality of life for people who live and work in the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan." The coalition's founder, David Marcus, has previously suggested that the city should "come up with a plan that's not so focused on transporting commuters where they need to get."
According to the suit, "Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, and Soho...will have the fabric of their neighborhoods disrupted" by the MTA/DOT contingency plan. Schwartz acknowledged that the complaint was similar to the federal suit filed earlier this year, but noted that it also included more recent concerns raised by East Village residents about the late night construction noise and pollution that's already begun ahead of the shutdown. (Schwartz's request to limit construction hours to 7 p.m., instead of 11 p.m., was tossed by a judge on Tuesday).
Still, the West Village attorney remains undeterred, unlike the "people on the other side of the river, who are resigned to just doing what the government says," according to Schwartz. He says he's confident that a state judge will ultimately block some of the city's shutdown plans.
His foes across the river, meanwhile, are less sure. "It's a couple dozen angry people up against hundreds of thousands of people who use the L," Danny Pearlstein, spokesperson for the Riders Alliance, told Gothamist. "It's true that this is a NIMBY lawsuit, but these people's backyard are where millions of people need to have a reliable commute."
The MTA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the DOT said they were "grateful for the judge’s decision" to throw out the construction suit, and that "look forward to continuing to work with the MTA, local communities, stakeholders and officials to closely coordinate our efforts for next year’s 2019 closure."
You can read the full complaint below.