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L-train riders demand answers on closure — MTA blames media for revealing story in first place

Crowds on the L train will be thinner, thanks to enhanced service, transit officials say.
The Brooklyn Paper / Richard Moon

What the L is going on?

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is refusing to give more details on news that it may close the L train passageway to Manhattan for years of repairs due to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, and is blaming the media for publishing the “leaked” story and putting it in a position to answer to the public in the first place.

“We didn’t want to come out directly after this press leak — and quite frankly that’s what it was, a press leak — before we have any decisions to share with the community,” spokesman Andrew Ingelsby told angry straphangers and business owners during a meeting about the potential closure on Thursday morning.

The crowd grilled Ingelsby for answers on exactly what is wrong with the tunnel and what the repairs would entail during the packed meeting at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, slamming the transit agency for its silence on the potential closure in the weeks since Gothamist first broke the news on Jan. 13.

“We’re not getting any answers, we’re not getting any solid information, and we need to proceed to defend ourselves,” said Felice Kirby, owner of watering hole Teddy’s Bar and Grill on Berry Sreet and member of the newly formed L Train Coalition, an alliance of local businesses rallying to fight the potential closure.

But Ingelsby refused to elaborate, stating only that the authority was still exploring its options and was not ready to reveal its repair plan to the public.

The uncertainty is already wreaking havoc on the neighborhood’s real estate climate, said a local broker, who claimed landlords and tenants have been afraid to sign new leases since the news broke, leaving storefronts empty.

“Concrete information will help some of these vacant storefronts get leased,” said Peter Levitan of Lee and Associates.

The tight-lipped treatment also has some straphangers terrified they have been blindly hurtling through an unsound shaft since the super storm 2012.

“When we get on the L Train, are we going to make it to the other side?” said state Sen. Martin Malave Dilan (D–Bushwick), who heads the state senate’s transportation committee. “We don’t know if it’s that serious, and if it is that serious, someone has been very negligent.”

An agency rep later claimed the tunnel is currently safe, but said the tube needs long-term repairs due to the seven-million gallons of saltwater that surged through the passageway during the storm.

Dilan said he has been trying to get answers out of the state transit honchos, but that chairman and chief executive Thomas Prendergast and his minions have been completely unresponsive to his office’s repeated inquiries.

The coalition, along with local pols including Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint) and Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg), are now demanding the transit authority provide them with an engineering report detailing the condition of the tunnel in the near future.

And it better make a compelling case if it intends to go ahead with a years-long closure, said local business owners, because shutting the direct line between the boroughs full-time will starve them of customers.

“You will devastate the entire community,” said Thomas Dodd, owner of the Brooklyn Fire Proof galleries on Porter Avenue, adding that he will consider shutting his business and moving out of Brooklyn if the closure happens.

The coalition will meet again on Feb. 24 at 6:30 pm at Williamsburg’s Swinging Sixties center.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Outrage: Locals packed into Williamsburg concert venue Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday to voice their concerns about the potential L train closure.
Community News Group / Allegra Hobbs

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