April 27 was a day that many North Brooklynites were preparing for with dread. The impending “L–pocalypse,” which was announced in 2016, was expected to displace over 200,000 commuters living along the L train line. At least that was the case until Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced its cancellation on Thursday, Jan. 3. Where does that leave Brooklynites?
In the newly introduced plan, engineers would be using new technology from Europe to make repairs. This means that service would continue uninterrupted throughout the weekday and would only be partially suspended late nights and weekends.
“It uses many new innovations that are frankly new to the rail industry in this country,” said Cuomo in his address. “With this design, it would not be necessary to close the L train tunnel at all, which would be a phenomenal benefit to the people of New York City.”
But the Governor’s address regarding the shutdown was met with confusion, uncertainty and frustration. Several of the city’s elected officials questioned the delay in the introduction to the new plan, others voiced their concerns for commuters who would still be affected by the evening and weekend service changes.
Council Member Antonio Reynoso said in response to the Governor’s announcement regarding the shutdown cancelation:
The timeline and manner in which this decision was made is procedurally problematic. Cuomo’s decision to wait until just three months before the planned closure was an insult to the residents, elected officials, and MTA officials who have spent countless hours, resources, and taxpayer dollars on extensive planning to produce a comprehensive mitigation plan.”
In addition to this, he reiterated “Public confidence in Cuomo’s handling of the MTA is already low, and this has added insult to injury…I will fight for continued implementation of the street redesigns and transportation upgrades already put in place or planned.”
Council Member Reynoso isn’t the only elected official to voice his concerns, Senator Brian Kavanaugh also spoke out on his Twitter:
Prior to the cancelation, many residents had voiced their concerns at meetings and created alternative modes of transportation like this luxury van service. Some residents had gone to even greater lengths to avoid being plagued by the shutdown and had moved away.
So what does the shutdown cancelation mean for residents who decided to stay put? According to the StreetEasy Rent Index, renters who signed leases in 2018 got a deal.
“We conservatively estimate that renters signing new leases in these units in 2018 saved a minimum of $6.4 million compared to what they’d have paid if there were no shutdown and rents had remained flat,” wrote senior StreetEasy economist, Grant Long. “If we assume rents in North Brooklyn would have grown at the same rate as the rest of Brooklyn — 3.3 percent cumulatively since April 2016 — total renter savings rises to $26.5 million.”
However, Grant also noted that rents were likely to rebound quickly and that residents who were able negotiate and secure cheaper rents might still be impacted, “Landlords who offered bargains on rent will be anxious to make up for lost revenues, and are likely to take a harder stance in negotiations despite whatever bargaining chip the lingering uncertainties over the L gives renters. We expect rents to rise sharply over the next few weeks as they climb back toward pre-shutdown levels.”
In an interview with Business Insider, Michael Lefkowitz, a real estate lawyer at New York-based firm Rosenberg & Estis, pointed out, “It is likely that some landlords would have included concession clauses in their leases. These clauses might say, for example, that the lower rents being offered are dependent on the L train closing down. Now that the train line is no longer slated to close, tenants may not be eligible for those deals anymore.”
Other experts in the industry have pointed out that while some residents secured discounts, there are others who experienced increases due to the shutdown. According to Moiz Malik, CFO of Nooklyn, “Rents have increased in Bushwick/South Williamsburg/Ridgewood where there’s a second option or another option,” he told Curbed NY.
He attributed this to the increase in new developments going up in neighborhoods like Bushwick, whose housing stock attracted renters fleeing buildings in areas exclusively serviced by the L train. It is not yet known if rates in those areas will experience a decrease.
Residents aren’t the only ones who face challenges in the wake of the cancelation, as Council Member Reynoso pointed out, the MTA will too. According to a report outlined in AM New York, “The MTA must renegotiate the $477 million contact it has with its contractors Judlau and TC Electric, and that reworked contract must be approved by the MTA’s board.”
Although there are still many unanswered questions, North Brooklynites can finally give a sigh of relief and get rid of the “doomsday” circle they have marked over April 27 in their calendars.
Cover photo by Roshan Vyas.