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Subway changes spell trouble for Irish straphangers

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

Manhattan-bound from Brooklyn? If you take the B, D or Q trains to work, you’d better set your alarm clock at least 20 minutes earlier.

Large areas of Brooklyn, including districts that are home to many Irish and Irish Americans, will suffer under Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to renovate a further section of the Manhattan Bridge, according to 47th district Assemblyman William Colton.

Starting in July, the B, D and Q trains will no longer rattle across the Manhattan Bridge, but will be rerouted to the N and R tunnel, traveling up Broadway into Midtown Manhattan and Queens. The B line will be split in two sections, with the break coming at 34th Street. From Brooklyn to 34th Street, the B will be renamed the W train; from 34th street onward to Queens, it will be called the V.

The confusing changes will leave only the F train to serve the entire Sixth Avenue line from Brooklyn, says Colton. The N and R line will have even more congestion, whereas there are no plans as yet for an F express service up Sixth Avenue. The Grand Street stop on the Lower East Side will be cut off, except for an infrequent one-stop shuttle from the Broadway-Lafayette station.

"This is going to come as a big shock to people, even though they may already be cynical about [the subway service]," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers campaign, a New York City subway pressure group.

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Straphangers and other lobbyists are concerned that subway riders are still largely unaware of the coming disruption. Assemblyman Colton points to the MTA’s refusal to hold public hearings on Brooklyn changes, because the authority has designated the changes as temporary. Temporary subway changes do not require the MTA to hold public hearings.

"Even though the changes are to last for four years, the MTA is arguing on a legal technicality that the changes are temporary," said Joe Rappaport of the City Public Advocate’s office. Rappaport acknowledged that the MTA held a public hearing on the Queens-bound V line last Tuesday evening in Long Island City. But while the MTA offered an outline of its Brooklyn subway changes at the Queens meeting, Rappaport pointed out that Queens commuters weren’t those worst effected. "It’s Bronx, Manhattan and especially Brooklyn commuters who need their voices to be heard," he said.

The MTA has agreed to at least take some measures to reduce congestion: in a Dec. 8, 2000 letter replying to Public Advocate Mark Green, MTA chairman E. Virgil Conway said that steps would be taken to increase the overall number of trains in service on the affected lines. "We anticipate the imminent delivery of over 1,000 new cars," he said. Green signed a petition for a public hearing sent to Conway in January, along with 33 assembly members, 21 city council members and three state senators.

"There should be increased service and an express service on the F line," said Colton, noting that his own ride into Manhattan would be increased by at least 20 minutes. Colton’s biggest complaint, he says, is the timing. "The MTA knew about the repairs for years, but they left it until six months before the new work starts on the bridge to make plans for the repair time."

Meanwhile, the Public Advocate’s office has started distributing leaflets showing a ringing alarm clock, with the header, "B, D and Q riders: want to get up earlier for work?" hoping to alert commuters about the lost access to, and from, Brooklyn.

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