L train riders, businesses concerned about weekend closures

The scene outside the Bedford Avenue L train subway station in Williamsburg Brooklyn, on April 16, 2015.
The scene outside the Bedford Avenue L train subway station in Williamsburg Brooklyn, on April 16, 2015. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Hell hath no fury like an L train rider scorned.

And for the next five weekends, there will be plenty of fury when major parts of the L line will go out of service for repair work. Without the main lifeline between Brooklyn and Manhattan, riders will have to take roundabout routes or pay for cabs, while business owners brace for a hit in foot traffic as well as their employees’ extra-long commutes.

“Everyone uses that train to get into the city,” said Williamsburg resident Krystal Felix, 22, a performer who often travels into Manhattan. “I’m going to be doing a whole bunch of extra transferring.”

Jacky Ma, the owner of Luxeye, an eyeglass shop with a location on Bedford Avenue, is anticipating less business from the commuters that he estimates make up 30% of his sales.

“Whenever the L train is down, you can feel it: There are fewer people on the streets,” he said. As for his employees, “they come in late” when the train is down, he added.

Starting this weekend, the L line in Brooklyn will stop running from the last stop in Manhattan at 8th Avenue-14th Street to Lorimer Street in Brooklyn; from that stop, the train will run into Canarsie. The shutdown continues every weekend through May 18. Late-night riders during the week, meanwhile, have been dealing with the same shutdowns for overnight service since March 24 that will last until May 22. Shuttle buses from the Marcy Avenue J and M stations into the city and extra M14 bus service in Manhattan will be provided.

The work will focus on maintaining and strengthening tracks that have been beaten up by the heavy flow of trains. That includes mounting wooden track ties on concrete.

“We’ve seen a lot of use on the L train and we need to make sure the track is in tiptop shape,” said Adam Lisberg, chief spokesman for the MTA.

What makes the closure a particular hassle is that the L train is the only option for some Brooklynites, unless they are close enough to walk to the J and M lines into the Lower East Side, or the G train to Queens, where subways head into midtown Manhattan.

Riders have taken to social media to document their frustrations with a spate of delays in recent weeks. And major service outages are familiar to people off the L who had to endure weekend closures in 2012 when the MTA installed a new signal system to pack in more trains on the congested line.

But ridership on the line has only grown since then, and the north Brooklyn neighborhoods have become even more enticing destinations for tourists and New Yorkers around the city as new businesses and popular flea markets have set up shop. Average weekend ridership at the Bedford Avenue station was 49,553 in 2013, according to MTA statistics.

“A lot has happened in the last three to five years,” said Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

Some businesses are doing what they can to drum up customers. Big Mozz, a newcomer to the Smorgasburg outdoor food market, hired its own shuttle bus to take people for a fee, likely $5, between Union Square and Williamsburg starting next weekend.

Riders left in the lurch during the weekend train closures can also share an Uber ride for $5. The UberPool service, which pairs passengers making similar trips, will charge L train riders the flat fee if they’re heading between Manhattan and Brooklyn during the weekend shutdowns.