BY ELISSA STEIN | After the 24/7 L-train shutdown was averted, one might have assumed that the extreme and invasive aboveground mitigation plans for 14th St. and its surrounding neighborhoods would have been avoided, as well.
Without the crush of displaced commuters, it wouldn’t be necessary to take such drastic measures to move people across town since the L train would still be running, albeit on a revised night and weekend schedule.
But instead of scrapping their plans, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation continued to push their contingency measures, proposing two options for 14th St. — one a straight-up busway with emergency-vehicle access, the other allowing cars, as well — at community board meetings and L-train open houses.
Despite community pressure that 14th St. be open for two bus lanes and two lanes for other traffic, the mayor announced last week that the city would go with the more-restrictive option — the one originally prepared to deal with the catastrophic shut down that didn’t occur. He stated that they were going to “try an experimental new transit improvement” on 14th St. His cavalier attitude was reflected in his statement, “[W]e have an opportunity to try something new and really get bus riders moving on one of our busiest streets.”
Mr. Mayor, your experiment, to ban vehicles on 14th St. except for buses, trucks and emergency vehicles, means that car traffic will be shunted onto side streets, some of which have already recently been narrowed to one lane to allow for bike and buffer lanes as a result of the L-train shutdown that did not happen.
Has anyone spent more than a moment contemplating the negative impact on surrounding neighborhoods? These streets already struggle with backups caused by school buses and Access-A-Rides, gas deliveries and garbage pickups, FedEx and UPS trucks, move-ins/-outs and dumpsters. We’ve recently dealt with transformer fires, water-main breaks, and short- and long-term construction projects.
And where have our local elected officials been in all this? Last week, they banded together, issuing a statement that they hear our concerns and will be monitoring the situation. We need pushback and action — not waiting and seeing.
In the end, Mr. Mayor, you are choosing commuters over community, prioritizing travel time over quality of life and safety. We’ve often been labeled as NIMBYs, elitist, privileged car owners concerned only with real estate value and personal comfort. But has anyone stood on one of our corners as a truck turns and ends up on the sidewalk because there’s not enough room to maneuver? Have you ever pulled an elderly neighbor to safety as an electric bike whizzes the wrong way down a bike lane, at night, with no lights? Have you ever watched an ambulance stuck in traffic, sirens wailing, because a delivery car is parked in the way, with no driver in sight?
Mr. Mayor, you said you want to “save people valuable time for the things that matter.” News flash: Quality of life and safety matter.
Stein is a member, 14th St. Coalition Steering Committee