Since the news that the L Train will be shut down for 18 months became official, people have been scrambling, much like a crowd stuck behind a stroller on the Bedford stop’s narrow stairs, to figure out what to do about it.
Earlier this afternoon, a group of 32 elected officials, led by State Senator Daniel Squadron, called on the city, state and MTA officials to create an “interagency working group” to come up with mitigation solutions and prevent those along the L Train from getting completely stranded during the shut down. It’s important to remember, they argue, that, to a certain subset of Manhattan-bound commuters, this is a monumentally important issue: “As you know, the L train is a transit lifeline for many of the communities we represent,” Squadron said in a statement. “It is clear that mitigating the impacts of the closure requires bold action within and outside the MTA and significant interagency coordination.”
There is a reason, in other words, that it’s been dubbed “the L-pocalypse.”
But, to some of those working in real estate in the neighborhoods affected—Williamsburg and Bushwick, especially—the shutdown isn’t exactly the end-of-the-world event it’s been made out to be.
Herbert Kliegerman, a real estate consultant with North Brooklyn Realty and a former broker who worked in Williamsburg and Greenpoint for 15 years, said commuters will simply adapt to the changes, as they always do.
“I know that one of my clients who owns property along Bedford Ave has a tenant who was thinking of not renewing his lease, so it definitely will have an impact in the short term, obviously,” Kliegerman said. “But, in the past when there’s been shutdowns the MTA has been very good at providing options.”
Those options include a possible East River ferry and shuttle buses, which Kliegerman said “might even be better” than the perpetually overcrowded L Train. While students and recent transplants might steer clear of Williamsburg for a while, he believes that long-term renters, condo owners and even retail tenants will simply learn to rely on the ferry. Those students and transplants, for their part, will likely look to the other cross-town train—the 7—and move to Long Island City or Sunnyside in Queens, Kliegerman predicts.
Others involved in real estate, like Rapid Realty broker Mayra Segarra, don’t see things as being quite so rosy.
“I think it’s gonna be a drastic change,” Segarra said. “People here are very impatient, and many people don’t like using the shuttle. They would rather move to a different train line.”
Those different train lines might be the J in Bed-Stuy; A, C, E in Crown Heights; or the G in Clinton Hill, Segarra said. Because they have such an early notice, renters, Segarra predicts, will leave in droves, forcing landlords to lower the currently overinflated rents considerably. Segarra added that rental prices in Williamsburg will soon start dropping dramatically and continue to do so during the shutdown, before finally rebounding once things are back up and running.
L service from the Bedford Avenue stop in Brooklyn to the 8th Avenue stop in Manhattan will be completely suspended for at least 18 months, starting in January of 2019. At public hearings, local residents and business owners have worried that, given the MTA’s proverbial track record, it will take the agency much longer to repair Sandy-related damage than anticipated.
Rents near many of the L Train in Brooklyn, including Bedford and Lorimer, have already started to fall, according to Street Easy data. Now that the shut down is officially happening, it remains to be seen whether this trend will continue.
While some business owners fear the worst, others are hoping that their draw from other parts of Brooklyn is good enough that they’ll be able to gut it out through the closure. Zach Schmahl, who owns the Bedford Ave cookie shop Schmackary’s, told DNA Info, “A lot of people are simply passing by, going from one location to another. The L train, it’s taking you right to the city. [The shutdown] could actually keep people in the neighborhood more.”
Some residents, too, seem to be in no rush to get out of the area—so long as mitigation is dealt with properly. The L Train Coalition, a group that was organized in response to the threat of a shutdown, said the city’s goal should be to make sure that communities that live along the L aren’t being left out in the cold, which means providing more options than just a dinky shuttle.
“In order to mitigate the negative impact on the communities reliant on the L train, MTA and City agencies should consider a variety of transportation alternatives,” a statement from the organization read.
Those alternatives, the group said, include “traffic and street alterations, such as dedicated bus lanes over the Williamsburg Bridge and a re-design of the 14th Street thoroughfare, additional ferry service, expanded Citi Bike service, promoting ride-sharing services, reopening closed subway entrances and making other improvements to transportation infrastructure in the impacted area.”