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Photo By Ryan Kelley/QNS
Photo By Ryan Kelley/QNS
Transportation advocates gathered in front of the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues station on June 6 to call for a final mitigation plan for the L train shutdown.

In less than one year, the notorious L train shutdown will impact 400,000 commuters, and advocacy groups and elected officials want to make sure that Ridgewood and Bushwick residents living near the subway line aren’t overlooked.

On June 6, a contingent of nine environmental and transportation advocacy groups, as well as Councilman Rafael Espinal and a representative from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s office, gathered in the plaza outside of the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues subway station to call for the MTA, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to present a final mitigation plan for the L shutdown.

In that plan, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color must be treated fairly and there must be stronger actions taken to address how the plan will affect the environment, the advocates said.

Members of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, El Puente, Make the Road New York, NY Renews, New York Communities for Change, MoveNY, Riders Alliance, Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign all took part in the event.

Espinal pointed out that between 18,000 and 25,000 people use the Myrtle-Wyckoff station on a daily basis, so the local community will be drastically affected.

“We’re all concerned about how we’re going to get to work, how we’re going to make sure we get our kids to school, how we’re going to get to the doctor’s office,” Espinal said. “Every day that DOT, the MTA and the mayor do not come up with a plan that’s going to deal with all of those issues, it just continues putting pressure on the families who depend on this transportation most.”

The L train will stop running between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 15 months beginning in April 2019 so that necessary repairs can be made to the Canarsie Tunnel — damaged by saltwater during Hurricane Sandy — that runs under the East River. The MTA released an initial plan earlier this year describing the extra measures that will be taken to make up for the loss, but the agency has since held several open house meetings and presented the plan to community boards in search of constructive feedback.

The protesters made it clear that they don’t believe the initial plan will be enough. Not only did they call for more options such as CitiBike in the area, but they also pointed out the importance of addressing the environmental impact of adding 200 buses to the city’s fleet as part of the current mitigation plan.

“Our community suffers from some of the highest asthma rates and worst air quality in the city,” said Leslie Velasquez, program manager for El Puente. “Therefore we call on the MTA to deploy their entire fleet of electric buses in providing alternate transportation to the L … By moving away from fossil fuel burning vehicles we would also be able to address the root cause of of the L train shutdown, which is climate change induced storms like Superstorm Sandy.”

Velasquez and other speakers said that the MTA has so far committed to rolling out 60 electric buses.

There to support the speakers were a few dozen other members of the advocacy groups who held up signs and banners, and chanted “No pollution, fund solutions.” Many people coming to and from the Myrtle-Wyckoff station stopped to listen to the protest for a few moments, and some people stuck around and even joined the movement.

One daily L train rider, Juana Alvarez, spoke to QNS in Spanish while another woman translated, and said that planning around the shutdown just to make it to work on time could jeopardize her livelihood and the livelihood of thousands more.

“We depend on very low salaries to get by, and if we’re going to run into issues with getting to work late because of trains and the possibility of getting fired for something like that, that’s not something that we can do,” Alvarez said.

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Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. June 08, 2018 / 09:15PM
The L train shutdown could be the biggest challenge they will ever be undertaking since it's inception in 1968.
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