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An open letter to Council Speaker Johnson post-‘L-pocalypse’

David Marcus considering alternative subway routes between Brooklyn and Manhattan during a meeting of the 14th St. Coalition last year about the L-train shutdown. Photo by The Villager

BY DAVID MARCUS | Dear Corey, Happy New Year. I wish you good health, happiness and success in the New Year.

Quite a list of accomplishments you can be proud of. It demonstrates the power of your office and the value of your advocacy.

Nevertheless, I remain deeply disappointed that the full measure of your ability to get the impossible to be done was not put behind the community’s efforts to find alternatives to the L-train shutdown, and if there was no alternative, then to effect major changes to the “alternative service plan” — not just create mechanisms to field all the inevitable problems and complaints. With proper changes, problems and complaints would have been minimized. The approach should have been to tweak the root cause; namely, the ill-advised plans.

And now, it seems, as I have argued since the beginning, there is a much more intelligent method that does not disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of commuters, residents and businesses that would have been devastated by the plan by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation.

You had the stature and resources to push for intelligent choices — even if it meant you were the sole sensible voice amongst all your peers arguing for the best plan possible. In my opinion, this was a missed opportunity to be a hero to all of us who look to you for your advocacy.

So now it takes a governor who relishes sticking it to a mayor to come up with a much more sensible plan that does not disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan commuters, residents and businesses. While the technical details are beyond me, the tried-and-true method of either doing work only on nights and weekends or closing one tube at a time (both of which had been successfully done with other New York City tunnel repairs) had always seemed the better all-around approach to me. 

So, at this juncture, I look to you to hold D.O.T. Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and New York City Transit President Andy Byford to their words that all the changes to 14th St., as well as the protected bike lanes on 12th and 13th Sts., (11 feet wide for bicycles versus 10 feet for vehicles), along with bus-route changes that eliminated the stop at 14th St. and Sixth Ave., among others, be eliminated immediately. The entire premise upon which the need for these changes was argued has been rendered moot, and, in my simple vocabulary, temporary is temporary.

We will not tolerate doublespeak from Trottenberg and Byford, or anyone else for that matter, who openly advocated for these changes’ permanence, but promised, at every juncture, that it would be up to the community to decide whether to keep them. It should not be up to the nonresident Transportation Alternatives advocates with no roots in the community that packed every hearing arguing for their selfish minority agenda. There should be no question about this.

If not for the L-train shutdown, none of this would have been forced down our throats. Common sense dictates that absent the shutdown premise, all these burdensome changes have been rendered moot and things should immediately be restored back to the way they were. Wouldn’t you agree?

The people can demand but only those currently in power can do. What needs to happen now is clear: These folks must be held to their repeated assurances that all this was temporary and only would be for the duration of the L-train shutdown. With the premise removed, all that flowed from it must also be removed. There can be no other result.

And on a fiscal note, as an accountant and businessman, I cannot help but be appalled at all the financial waste committed by D.O.T. and the M.T.A. to effect all these changes well before they were needed — something we also tried to postpone but failed to accomplish because no one in power said, “No.”

I remain interested to see how this all plays out and whether we will have the benefit of your office, Corey, and the power of your voice to get us back to where this community and neighborhoods need to be.

Marcus is a co-op board member of the Cambridge, at 175 W. 13th St., and a founder and former steering committee member of the 14th St. Coalition

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