L train shutdown doc ‘End of the Line’ pivots with Cuomo’s new plan

Directors of "End of the Line," an upcoming doc about the L train shutdown, will feature "human stories" of those affected by the planned repairs.
Directors of "End of the Line," an upcoming doc about the L train shutdown, will feature "human stories" of those affected by the planned repairs. Photo Credit: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

The filmmakers behind the upcoming film focused on the L train shutdown settled on a name last month after nearly two years as “the untitled L train doc.” A few weeks later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made an announcement that’ll ultimately change the project’s direction.

“I’m totally surprised,” says Emmett Adler, the director of the independent film. “There’s definitely a lot to dig into here and it’s quite interesting.”

Now dubbed “End of the Line,” Adler says the doc has become a “call to action,” rather than simply a look at the repairs. “This is the end of the line of people passing off the blame and not taking responsibility as far as the subways are concerned.”

Adler and producer Ian Mayer have been setting up their cameras in the backs of board meetings, City Hall briefings, Transit Committee gatherings and shops helmed from local business owners since 2016 to document the projected impact of the 15-month closure of the L train. Or, what was supposed to be, at least.

On Jan. 3, Cuomo announced that a full shutdown of the line for post-superstorm Sandy repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel wouldn’t be necessary after all. Instead, he revealed the MTA would work use a different engineering technique, allowing them to limit repairs to weekend and overnight hours. The partial shutdown still needs to be approved by the MTA board.

The shift in proposals could have easily squandered a film project years in the making, but instead, Adler says he sees the change as a plot twist that just might make the film even more impactful and appeal to a wider audience.  

“We’re still trying to figure it out in a way,” he says, adding that the crew immediately set out to seek locals and business owners following the announcement. “It does point to some degree of dysfunction with the leadership of the MTA and how it works with the state and city government, which I think brings a certain broader interest to the story even outside of New York.”

A pivot this close to the previously planned April 2019 shutdown has left locals, business owners and elected officials with “more questions than answers,” something that Adler now hopes his documentary can help shed light on.

“Given that this was such a surprise that the MTA was saying one thing for two years and then all of the sudden the governor comes and says this new plan, but the governor says he doesn’t control the MTA. It’s definitely a head-scratcher,” he says.

Projecting that the impacts of the partial shutdown may not be as broadly felt, Adler says he plans on slightly shifting focus to a whole new group of individuals who may have uprooted in anticipation.

“For those who made irreversible life decisions, that’s a tough pill to swallow,” he says, nodding to business owners who may have renegotiated their leases and residents who left Williamsburg behind. “We’ll be looking to tell these stories for sure.”

As previously planned, the doc will also aim to give viewers a look within the tunnels as the repairs begin. The MTA is cooperating with the production, according to Adler, but has still not confirmed Canarsie access.

To avoid a talking-head style documentary, the filmmakers will tell “human stories” by following the daily lives of those impacted — a commuter, an employee, a business owner, etc.

The doc is on track for release this November. To keep up with the progress of “End of the Line,” visit endofthelinedoc.com or follow along on Instagram and Twitter. 

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