It is clear as the sun on a cloudless day. For Brooklynites who ride the subway, the system’s deterioration is impossible to miss: broken down trains, derailments, endless delays, and station roofs literally falling on straphangers. To make matters worse, the impending closure of the Canarsie tunnel in 2019 and L train shutdown will severely disrupt the lives and businesses of Brooklyn residents already exasperated with the crumbling subway network.
With that frustrating backdrop, I recently attended two community meetings in different parts of Central Brooklyn—Brownsville and Crown Heights.
At Community Board 16 in Brownsville, officials from the city’s Department of Transportation took questions about their plans during the L train shutdown. Many in the room, including myself, wondered whether the DOT or MTA had a plan B if plan A fails. Given the MTA’s record of failure on a daily basis, it’s not a crazy thought. Yet, officials did not seem to have any ideas of what they’ll do in the very likely scenario that plan A does not hold up.
The second meeting was a town hall hosted by Andy Byford, the President of New York City Transit, regarding the MTA’s “Fast Forward” plan to revamp the entire subway system. This was another maddening conversation for residents who wonder how the system will get up to par. Mr. Byford seems well intentioned and brings many good ideas (i.e. replacing the decrepit signaling system within the next decade), but his hope that the billions needed for his plan will come from Albany feels like the same song we’ve all heard too many times before.
With the recent primaries in the rear-view mirror, Brooklyn residents must keep the pressure on all our elected officials, whether they are returning to office or newly elected, to solve this problem. From demanding answers at town halls, to calling their offices, to organizing online, it’s up to us to demand a better subway.
And even though our primaries in central Brooklyn are tantamount to election, there are volunteer opportunities for pro-transit Senators and Assemblymembers in competitive races from South Brooklyn to the Hudson Valley to Long Island. Unless we make our voices heard, instead of moving fast forward, our subway will be rewinding at an even more accelerated rate.
“In The Trenches” is a bi-weekly column by Adem Bunkeddeko on politics, policy, culture, and occasionally – the random. A Crown Heights perspective.