Residents, disabled groups sue to stop L shutdown plan

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | It’s either “L yes!” or “L no!” — depending on your point of view — as a federal suit to block the city’s L train shutdown plan is being filed in federal court on Tuesday morning.

Opponents of the city’s L train shutdown plan are holding a press conference at 11 a.m. on April 3 to announce the filing of the lawsuit to stop the Canarsie Tunnel repair plan, along with related mitigation efforts, including the so-called 14th St. “PeopleWay.”

The suit contains two main charges: that government has failed to conduct an environmental impact statement, or E.I.S., for the plan or to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

At a recent presentation of the city’s L subway shutdown plan at Community Board 4, Judy Pesin, a leader of the 14th St. Coalition, used photos to illustrate her concerns over the mitigation plan’s impacts on local streets. Villager file photo

A coalition of more than two-dozen Village and Chelsea block associations, along with two disability-rights groups, are petitioners in the suit, which is being brought by Village attorney Arthur Z. Schwartz.

The petitioners include the ad-hoc 14th St. Coalition — a group of Village and Chelsea block associations and building co-op and condo boards that has been meeting regularly to organize against the plan — individual block associations covering blocks between 12th and 18th Sts., the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, the Flatiron Alliance, two large apartment buildings — the Victoria, at 7 E. 14th St., and the Cambridge, at 175 W. 13th St. — along with Disabled in Action and 504 Democratic Club, the city’s leading political club for disabled individuals.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Transit and the New York City Department of Transportation, plus the Federal Transportation Administration.

The F.T.A. is included because, the suit alleges, the agency has “failed to enforce compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),” by requiring an E.I.S. to be done, even though the L tunnel repair work is a $1 billion federally funded project.

The suit also charges the M.T.A. / NYC Transit and city D.O.T. with failing to conduct an E.I.S. under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, and the City Environmental Quality Review Act, or CEQRA.

In addition, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, A.D.A.-accessible elevators must be installed at L stations as part of the project since federal funding is involved, the suit charges.

The suit also seeks to stay any funding for and any work on the Canarsie Tunnel shutdown project.

Schwartz, of the firm Advocates for Justice Chartered Attorneys, is also the Village’s elected Democratic district co-leader.

After a recent meeting in the Village at which agency officials presented the city’s mitigation plan for a possible L train shutdown, bicycle activists showed their support for both the “PeopleWay” plan for 14th St., which would turn the street into a “busway,” and a related plan for a new two-way crosstown bike lane on 13th St. Villager file photo

The city hopes to close the East River L tunnel for 15 months for repairs starting in April 2019. This would set off what has been nicknamed the “L-pocalypse,” causing a mad commuter scramble of displaced L straphangers. The city’s proposed transportation mitigation measures would see 14th St. transformed into a “busway” without cars during rush hours, if not for even longer periods, while street space on 14th St. would be taken away to increase pedestrian space; a two-way protected crosstown bike lane added on 13th St.; a flotilla of ferries sailing back and forth between Williamsburg and Stuyvesant Town; and a fleet of diesel-powered buses motoring over the Williamsburg Bridge that would link to Downtown local subway hubs, as well as 14th St., where still more diesel-fuel buses would be added.

Many Village and Chelsea residents fear that displaced car traffic from the 14th St. “PeopleWay” would overwhelm their narrow historic streets, while 13th St. residents and City and Country School parents vehemently oppose the novel two-way crosstown bike lane.

In addition, state Senator Brad Hoylman has said, if anything, electric buses, not diesel, should be used in any mitigation plan, while some local environmental advocates say ultra-low-pollution, renewable natural gas buses, though more expensive, would be even better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *