"I've had health concerns for a year," Alphabet City resident Penny Pennline said at a protest convened Tuesday outside the MTA headquarters in Downtown Manhattan. Pennline has lived in the same apartment on 14th Street and Avenue B for two decades, and is among the neighborhood residents who complain that 24/7 construction on the L train—slated to partially shut down for at least 15 months of repairs, beginning on April 27th, 2019—has already introduced ceaseless chaos into their lives.

Pennline, whose apartment sits right over the work zone, says she hasn't opened her window in a year, but she and her daughter have still developed ailments that Pennline believes trace back to chemical dust and pollutants allegedly kicked up by the project.

"We wake up with nose bleeds. We have constant respiratory issues. I've had a dry cough for a year," she said, adding that things became so bad, she had to get her ribs X-rayed.

The MTA maintains that it will closely monitor the air quality around construction sites as work on the L continues, and that it will keep up its outreach efforts with the community. At a town hall in September, East Villagers raised a number of concerns about health risks related to the added pollution, which New York City Transit Authority President Andy Byford attempted to assuage with a pledge to start telling people exactly what materials workers would dispose of and how. Still, one resident told Gothamist / WNYC on Monday that the dumpsters near his apartment housed a strange, bright green substance, and when he questioned the MTA about its exact makeup, they claimed it was water, concrete, and dirt.

Hm, let's take a closer look...

(Courtesy Patrick Ferguson)

Should be fine as long as you are not a failed stand-up comedian who tumbles into that dumpster and emerges deeply disfigured and turns to a life of crime...

In a statement, MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek emphasized that the agency was making repairs as responsibly as possible. "We have had dozens of meetings with neighbors of the L Project, have developed extensive procedures to minimize the impact of construction, and welcome practical ideas on how we can further protect local quality of life," Tarek said. "We require our contractors to uphold strict guidelines regarding noise, vibration, air quality, and safety, are monitoring all of these impacts, and any suggestion otherwise is just false."

"I don't believe anything the MTA says," Pennline said at the protest. "I'm not buying it, they also said 9/11 was safe for the first responders, where are those people now?"

The MTA, however, sees no way around the coming L'pocalypse: It argues that there is no option but to fix the extensive damage Superstorm Sandy did to the Canarsie Tunnel in 2012, unless you would perhaps like even less reliable service on this very busy commuter corridor? You definitely don't, nobody does, so starting in April, the MTA will replace L service between Manhattan and Brooklyn with—buses? Boats? A bunch more bikes zooming along this pretty dangerous bike path? You moving to a different neighborhood with a different train line? Some combination thereof? No single happy solution has emerged so far. The transportation situation looks inescapably dire, and locals have also complained of extra traffic from construction trucks. That certainly won't be improved by the addition of ersatz luxury shuttles carrying former L train riders over the Williamsburg Bridge, nor will the already-suffering air quality.

Perhaps it will soothe you somewhat to learn that Governor Amazon Cuomo has heard your cries, and intends to make a ceremonial tunnel visit to address them. Months after the MTA announced the start date for the L train shutdown, and years after the agency first broached the idea, Governor Amazon Cuomo has pledged to closely review the project. Welcome to the party, sir! You are just a little late.

Speaking with WNYC host Brian Lehrer on Monday, Cuomo noted that "many New Yorkers" had complained to him about the current shutdown plan. Cuomo, who has often been accused of shirking the responsibility for the MTA that his office bestows, views the L train shutdown as "highly disruptive." He told Lehrer that he wants to be absolutely sure that no better way exists.

"I can't tell you the number of people in Brooklyn who have come up to me and looked me in the eye and said, 'Are you sure there's nothing else that can be done, that there's nothing that can be done to shorten this?'" Cuomo said. So that he can be absolutely sure there's no alternate path forward, the governor will take a late-night tunnel tour on Thursday, and inspect the damage himself. "[MTA officials are] going ahead with their plan, I'm going to review it myself, I'm going to bring some fresh eyes to the table," he explained.

Which is to say, Cuomo does not have any intention of putting the brakes on a course of action that's more or less been set in stone at this point. Basically, he just wants to be able to meet your eyes when you whinge to him about the dust colonizing your lungs, and tell you that he enlisted every possible expert in assessing the situation. As he told Lehrer: "I want to be able to say to every New Yorker, 'I know it's a pain in the neck. There is no other option. The MTA is right.'"

Reporting by Stephen Nessen.