MTA restores Metrotech subway funds

The Brooklyn Paper
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Bowing to pressure from the mayor, elected officials and Downtown Brooklyn leaders, the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority restored funding this week to create a major transit hub in Downtown Brooklyn.

As first reported in The Brooklyn Papers last week, the MTA had pulled funding in early July for a project to link the Jay Street-Borough Hall A, C and F station and the Lawrence Street-Metrotech M and R station, citing a projected $1 billion budget deficit in coming years.

Both stations are in dire need of renovations and are seen by backers of the city’s Downtown Brooklyn urban renewal plan as necessary to accommodate the 43,000 new workers expected to flock to the area over the next decade as new office towers are built.

Faced with mounting pressure, the MTA board included the project in its five-year spending plan, which it released on Thursday.

Michael Burke, executive director of the Downtown Brooklyn Council, a driving force in creating the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, breathed a sigh of relief at the news this week.

“The Downtown Brooklyn Council is very happy that the MTA has decided to fund this project again. Their investment is critical to the success of Downtown Brooklyn,” said Burke.

It was a letter from Burke to both New York City Transit President Lawrence Reuter and MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp, a copy of which was obtained by The Brooklyn Papers, that exposed the agency’s plan to pull funding for that project.

Citing the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, Burke wrote, “The epicenter of this new development will be Willoughby Street, Jay Street and Flatbush Avenue, making the Jay Street and Lawrence Street subway stations the commuter crossroads of Downtown Brooklyn.”

The 60-block Downtown Brooklyn Plan could bring 4.5 million square feet of office development, 1 million square feet of commercial space and 1,000 units of housing. Over the next decade the workforce is expected to grow from 71,000 to 114,000, Burke cited in his letter.

From the beginning, both supporters and opponents of the downtown plan have called on the city to improve traffic and transportation in the area.

Community leaders have charged that the stairwells and platforms at the Lawrence Street station, at Willoughby Street, are too narrow to accommodate riders.

The MTA had pledged to widen the staircases and connect the two subway stations. Riders currently must pay two fares if they want to transfer between them.

But facing a mounting deficit, the MTA announced earlier this month that they would have to scale back service and possibly raise fares.

Councilman David Yassky, Assemblywoman Joan Millman and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery all fired off letters to the agencies this week calling for the renovations to be reinstated in the budget.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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