The End of the “L” Train Saga?

As a real estate agent, it was all I ever heard. My Williamsburg, Brooklyn clients loved to marvel at the insurmountable hardship of the L train shutting down for a year. No, for two years. Five years. I heard they were shutting it down in sections. They were shutting it down all at once. Residents of northern Brooklyn were going to be exiled, cut off from the mainland where 99% of them worked. There were rumors about a bus that would run the same route more or less. But how often would it run? And, also—a bus?


The only thing I knew for sure myself was the L train--that inter-borough pipeline of humanity--was going away and it would be a disaster. According to The New York Times, 250,000 daily riders were going to need another way to get to work. To get home. (Six years later and Hurricane Sandy continues to lash at our city…)


Predictably, my market took a hit. Those shiny, new developments in Williamsburg began offering concessions: One free month. No broker fees. Nothing helped. My clients were leaving, fleeing to neighborhoods with, well, public transportation. As their current leases expired, instead of signing new ones, they took a different approach. They packed up their belongings, and brought them to storage units for safe keeping. Then they started couch surfing with friends, waiting to make any commitments until they knew just how this fiasco panned out. In extreme cases, some folks sold their homes and switched jobs. (Thank God this wasn’t me, at least)


Fortunately, the outcry reached such a deafening tone that Governor Cuomo got desperate. He gave up on his transit executives and Mayor de Blasio and came up with his own solution: He would borrow new European rail technology to repair the tunnel without ever having to close the whole thing. They would maintain full service during the weekday and close only one line on late nights and weekends.

L Train New York

Genius! Cuomo saves the day again! Still, while most are delighted with the news, I can’t help but wonder why such a simple solution took so long. Could they have maybe thought of that idea before people turned their entire lives upside-down? How much money did I lose? How many clients? How much is this “new technology” going to cost taxpayers? Europeans deal with different voltages, don’t they?


Overall, I’m happy with the governor. At least someone did something. I recall the two times my wife mailed letters to the governor, letting him know that the IRS was being a little slow and whiney about her refund check. Both times, I stood nearby and shook my head at her adorable naivete…until her checks arrived in the mail a few days later with an apology letter. Cuomo is all right by us. 


It’s just that I have some skepticism about the gov’s current project. Engineers say that doing what Cuomo wants would be nearly impossible without a major shutdown at some point. Cuomo could be promising the sky without knowing how to fly. Also, the MTA Board has yet to approve any impromptu plans and are likely pushing back against being bulldozed.


So could this still be a fiasco waiting to happen? Maybe so, but looks like you might have bought a little time. My advice? Move some of those items out of your storage unit, and give me a call. We’ll find you a short lease on a new Brooklyn apartment.


Lee Anderson is a writer out of Park Slope, Brooklyn. He keeps a music review blog called "Alphabet Pony" which you can check out here!

September 02, 2019

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