The lapel guy and the L train

A totally real business owner who accosted Cuomo finally speaks.  Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Just the other day I was thinking how strange it was that there are still questions about the L train …

A totally real business owner who accosted Cuomo finally speaks. 
A totally real business owner who accosted Cuomo finally speaks.  Photo Credit: One RPM Studios

Just the other day I was thinking how strange it was that there are still questions about the L train shutdown-unshutdown, including: who was the mysterious guy who Gov. Andrew Cuomo said caught him at a Brooklyn campaign event and questioned him about the plan to fix the tunnel. 

I thought about it further and fell asleep and dreamed and when I woke up waddaya know this email was in my inbox. I’ll just include it verbatim.  

"I’m the gentleman who grabbed Governor Cuomo by the lapel last year and convinced him to keep the L train open.

I’m a hardworking small-business owner who puts in long hours to make a living but for some reason I decided to spend valuable time tracking down Governor Cuomo in the depths of Brooklyn. Nobody but a thousand passersby with smartphone cameras plus his security people were watching when outside the Junior’s Cheesecake on Flatbush Avenue I grabbed him manfully by the thin piece of cloth below a suit collar and berated the sitting state chief executive: ‘Are you sure the L needs to be shut down? Is there any other way?’

I own a pizzeria on Bedford Avenue, and I’ve always adapted to the neighborhood: started selling vegetables on the pizza when pepperoni became problematic, recently learned five new languages because it’s basically just tourists in this part of Williamsburg, etc. But without the train, business is finished.

Cuomo seemed totally unsurprised by the fact that I was banging on his chest and getting pizza dust all over that nice suit. Rather than I dunno sending me to Rikers Island he calmly told me that he was a ‘Queens boy’ and ‘not an engineer’ but had always been proud of getting big construction projects done in New York City.

‘As you know,’ he said, though I didn’t, ‘no being in the wide universe controls the MTA but I will make a major decision about their day-to-day operations and they’ll agree with that decision tomorrow.’

He said that he liked bologna rather than vegetables or pepperoni but he’d stop by for a slice someday when the L train was running.

You can imagine my surprise but also my pleasure when the governor mentioned my story, albeit without naming the pizzeria, that’s ‘Tony’s Original Number One Not Ray’s Exceptional Totally Real Pizza’ on Bedford Avenue, follow us on Instagram. It was the reason he took a careful look at the longstanding proposal to do necessary repairs to the L crossing by shutting down the East River tunnel for an extended period. He looked, he considered, he put on a New York State windbreaker and checked out the tunnel, and as a Queens boy decided there was a more painless non-shutdown way to prevent transit apocalypse for his brother boroughs. Victory!

But since then I’ve been wondering. When I was celebrating the ‘L-pocalypse canceled,’ I hadn’t been thinking about the weekend disruptions while the MTA made repairs. I had been really excited for more buses and HOV restrictions and ferries to make things run smooth when the L wasn’t in service, some of which now sound up in the air for the lesser changes. And I assumed that someone new besides Cuomo and some professors would have already taken a look at the revised plan and made sure it was the best option.

Now we’re not so many weeks away from the L-whatever, and I’m worried about how the weekend tourists are going to get to my super-existing pizzeria.

Honestly since we’re talkin’ I have a couple other thoughts I want to get off my chest about the subway. You know how sometimes the C train does that thing when it goes express for no reason after 59th Street? That’s annoying. Also are the fares really going up? And when will we be on par with, say, Washington, on number of delays? No wonder people are ditching the subway.

It’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to take some time off from my beloved pizza joint again, and roam the whole state in search of the governor and his jacket lapel. Where could he be? Helping a stranded motorist on the highway? Shouldering a pickax to break up some dangerous river ice? Hearing from another folksy business owner somewhere in this great state? I guess I’ll have to start looking, since saving the L train seems to be entirely up to me.” 

Mark Chiusano