‘L’ of a process

The Department of Transportation unveiling of its Manhattan mitigation plans for the upcoming L train 15-month-long maintenance project blindsided the community.

The repairs to the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel are slated to start April 2019. Under the plan, 13th St. would get a new two-way protected bike lane. Meanwhile, 14th St. would become a busway, with Select Bus Service, and with most other vehicles banned during rush hours.

Yes, there were some loose outreach workshops, or charrettes, last year where various ideas to deal with the L situation were bandied about. But that’s different than having a concrete plan formally presented to local community boards for review before basically being declared a done deal.

Currently, the idea is for the proposed changes to 13th and 14th Sts. to start being implemented in late summer or early fall of this year.

Speaking to the City Council’s Committee on Transportation last month, D.O.T. Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said there would be new rounds of public outreach in January and February.

In the Village and Chelsea, there is tremendous concern that blocking cars from using 14th St. would only lead to their being displaced onto surrounding historic side streets that cannot handle it. D.O.T. and Transportation Alternatives, however, believe we must reduce cars in Manhattan by making it more difficult for drivers to get around.

(Hopefully, our new Council speaker, Corey Johnson, will help by passing congestion pricing.)

“We can’t promise there won’t be impacts on neighborhoods,” Trottenberg said last month. “This is the enormity of the challenge we are facing, with 50,000 people on 14th St. that were formerly traveling underground coming up to the surface,” she explained of the looming L shutdown.

In addition, there is anxiety about a two-way protected bike path on currently one-way 13th St. Bikes are quiet and residents would need to get used to looking both ways when crossing this street. Hey, we’re 100 percent for more protected crosstown bike lanes; the unprotected lanes on Bleecker, Prince, Ninth and 10th Sts. leave much be desired, with vehicles veering dangerously into them and doors suddenly flinging open into them.

But what about a single protected westbound lane on 13th St. and a single protected eastbound lane on another street? Maybe residents would prefer that — if given the chance to weigh in.

This week, on The Villager’s online version, thevillager.com, there was a surge of comments by supporters of the D.O.T. plan on our article “L shutdown plan a real train wreck, residents say.”

It’s an effort to spin the debate, and, yes, we hope this issue and this plan is still open to debate. But a comment thread is not a public meeting — and, thankfully, public meetings are not extinct — at least not yet!

We did moderate, as in “unapprove” / remove, one clearly ageist comment: “Holy cow, apparently the residents of the 100 block of W 13th Street are all oblivious old curmudgeons.” Just insulting and, frankly, prejudiced.

F.Y.I.: The city’s senior population is increasing. We all must live here together and must all share the same streets. Older residents react slower and fear falling and breaking bones, which can have very serious — actually, life-threatening — consequences for them.

Not surprisingly, that online commenter used a phony name. At a public meeting, speakers identify themselves and air their opinions in front of others. Again, it’s about the process.

And this particular process, thus far — regardless of whether you like or dislike the plan that has emerged — has not been nearly open enough.

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