The lack of concrete information about a possible multi-year L train shutdown between Manhattan and Brooklyn is already impacting business, including bars and restaurants, according to owners and industry folk who showed up at a Town Hall meeting Thursday. Dozens of locals filled Brooklyn Bowl for the meeting to voice their concerns and hear from the MTA. Real estate deals to fill storefronts are falling through, and business planning for the next few years is suffering, they said. But a representative from the MTA offered no new information. "[The lack of communication] was very disappointing and unacceptable," says David Rosen, owner of The Woods. "It's just not fair and not reasonable. We need more."
News that the MTA is considering shutting down L train service for years to fix Sandy damage was a leak to the press, MTA representative Andrew Inglesby says, and they're still not ready to publicly say what other options the MTA is considering. Inglesby also declined to offer specifics on what fixes are needed, inciting some discontent in the room. State Senator Martin Dilan, who sits on the transportation committee, told the group that he also had not heard of the potential shutdown or the extent of the tube's damages.
Such uncertainty is impacting business, even before a shutdown has started. Retail real estate broker Peter Levitan, who's worked on many restaurant deals, implored the MTA to offer more details on what might happen. Businesses have been pulling out of deals to fill vacant spaces because they can't make decisions, he says. "There's been a lot of damage on the speculative nature of what's going to be done, how it's it's going to be done, what the circumstances are," Levitan says. "Concrete information will help some of these vacant storefronts and offices get leased."
Brooklyn Winery, which doubles as a popular venue for weddings, often schedules events between one and two years beforehand, and L train speculation is impacting their business too, says event director Rachel Sackheim. Word has gotten around, and potential customers are asking questions about what they would have to do for transportation, Sackheim says. "It's really important to get those answers that we can communicate effectively to the public," she says.
A large emphasis of the meeting, which was co-hosted by a slew of elected officials and local bar and restaurant owners, was the impact a potential shutdown would have on the economy. "The businesses, quite honestly, will shut down," says Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "The people will move out of this vibrant neighborhood." Like with previous L train shutdowns, the MTA will likely have contingency plans, such as increasing G and M train service, but more buses and ferries will not be enough to counteract the economic impact of no L train, some say. "Until we know that there are no other options, we shouldn't even entertain that option," one small business owner argued.
The people in the group organizing around the issue, called The L Train Coalition, say they will be moving future meetings further down Brooklyn to include people from across the L train, including commuters and residents. They'll be sending another letter to the MTA with requests for more information, in concert with many of Brooklyn's elected officials. The turnout for the event shows just how much people care about the issue, Rosen says. "People are going to fight for it," he says. "We’re going to keep pushing." The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at the Swinging Sixties Center at 6:30 p.m.