Nearly a dozen organizations, ranging from environmental justice groups to housing advocates, rallied last Wednesday in Bushwick.
They asked both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to come up with a plan that prioritizes the needs of New Yorkers who will be impacted the most by the closure.
“Low-income neighborhoods and communities of color face the pain of losing a vitally important transit connection,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “Then the added injury of more traffic and increased air pollution.”
According to the MTA, nearly 400,000 passengers ride the L train daily, including 225,000 who travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. They will be most affected by the closure of the Canarsie tunnel for repairs after damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.
While most commuters are expected to take nearby trains, such as the G, M or J trains, up to 15 percent will take buses. Advocates fear the addition of buses would be harmful to the environment and public health.
“Our community suffers from some of the highest rates of asthma in the city, and adding 200 diesel buses threatens to make that problem worse,” said Leslie Vasquez, program manager of the Williamsburg-based organization El Puente.
“We understand the need for shuttle buses, but given the MTA’s visionary commitment of zero emissions buses by 2040, they can make a down payment on this promise by committing all 60 electric buses slated to be purchased will be deployed as part of the L train mitigation shuttle service,” she added.
Transportation advocates called for the city to prioritize buses over private cars, and to take other measures into consideration.
“The city and the MTA need to prioritize 24/7 busways, free shuttle boarding and transfers, ADA-compliant at-level boarding and protected bike lanes on both 13th Street in Manhattan and Grand Street in Brooklyn,” said Erwin Figueroa of Transportation Alternatives, “to ensure that all New Yorkers can depend on reliable transportation options to ease the disruption during the shutdown.”
A Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesperson said the DOT and MTA are still engaging and reviewing mitigation plans. The agencies have participated in more than 70 public meetings on the response.
Additional information on mitigations will be released in the next few weeks, the spokesperson said.