BY DENISE ROMANO, MELISA STUMPF AND HEATHER J. CHIN
Riders of the R and G lines are in for a stressful summer, with major construction slated for the Montague and Greenpoint Tubes that were badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
Beginning on July 6, the Greenpoint Tube, which runs under Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens, will be closed for 12, 53-hour-long weekends. The closures are slated to start at midnight on Fridays during the following days: July 6-7, 13-14, 20-21; August 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 24-25; September 7-8, 28-29; October 5-6; December 7-8, and 14-15. There will also be a five-week 24/7 closure of the tube in summer, 2014.
The three northernmost stops: Greenpoint Avenue, 21st Street and Court Square will be closed. G trains will run between Church Avenue and Nassau Avenue, and a shuttle bus will be provided to link the closed stops.
As for the Montague Tube, which runs beneath the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, it will be closed for up to 14 months starting the first week in August. On weekdays, the R will run in two sections: between Court Street and 95th Street in Brooklyn and from Forest Hills-71st Street in Queens to Whitehall Street in Manhattan.
On weekends, the R train will be re-routed over the Manhattan Bridge, skipping Jay, Court, Whitehall and Rector Streets and City Hall. Overnights, the N will also run over the bridge.
An MTA spokesperson told this paper that there is not enough room on the Manhattan Bridge to re-route R trains at all times.
The extensive repairs are due to the million gallons of salt water that flooded the tunnels during Sandy. The water corroded, degraded or ruined “almost everything” including tracks, switches, signals, controls, and power and communication cables. The tubes were temporarily fixed, but not permanently repaired.
In the Greenpoint Tube, power cables were immersed in salt water and are now corroding from the inside. The controls for the ventilation, lighting and communication systems were also destroyed and were never restored to pre-Sandy conditions.
The MTA spokesperson said that the Montague Tune is in “far worse” condition. The concrete and terracotta duct banks under the walkways along the sides of the tunnel, built in 1920, were compromised, leaving cables unprotected. The duct banks must be removed and rebuilt, so they can be available as emergency exits.
Straphangers across the borough said that the news simply stinks.
Tolani Adeboye, a member of the Riders Alliance, lives off of the Myrtle-Willoughby G train stop in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Although she works in Downtown Brooklyn, she uses the G to run errands on the weekends and socialize.
“This will be very problematic for me. I’m concerned that it will be difficult to get around,” she said. Adeboye added that the MTA should provide not only shuttle buses but supplement surrounding bus lines.
“I totally understand the need for repairs. But I really count on the G train a lot,” she said, adding that the closest stop is a 20-minute walk to the J train.
“I think businesses will suffer. I take it to Brooklyn Flea and think that things like that have grown because people have had access,” Adeboye said, contending that when repairs are finished, the G train should have expanded service.
Connor Mealey, an0ther Riders Alliance member, is also concerned since he relies on the G train to commute from his home in Greenpoint to his job in Long Island City, Queens.
“As far as subways, it’s my only way to commute. [After Sandy], we were the last ones to get it back,” he said, noting that he and hundreds of other North Brooklyn residents ended up walking across the Pulaski Bridge every day.
“We all understand that the work needs to be done and this is the cost of running a 24-hour system and Sandy wasn’t expected, but we just need the MTA to find a better plan than they had last time,” Mealey added. “They say there will be shuttle buses, but [in November], it wasn’t enough — the shuttles and the B62 bus were overwhelmed.
“I think we probably should have learned some lessons after Sandy. The preliminary announcement today about shuttle buses doesn’t sound like more than it was before,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll have a plan and leave me ecstatic.”
As for the R train, Mealey notes that “there isn’t much of a contingency plan for R train riders. They say shift to another line, but the 2, 3, and all the other downtown lines are packed already.”
Morris Sacks, the Traffic and Transportation Committee Chair at Community Board 14, agrees. Although he lives in Midwood, he said that the Montague Tube closure will impact anyone traveling to the downtown area.
“We all take the Q or the B and change at DeKalb [Avenue] for the R. It was an easy transfer. This will be a disaster for us. We would have to walk from DeKalb or switch at Atlantic [Avenue],” Sacks explained.
He added that the suspension will also impact the development along Fourth Avenue and real estate values in Bay Ridge.
“It’s unbelievable that they can’t find a way to shut it down just at night,” Sacks said. “If enough people make enough noise, maybe they will try and find another way.”
Ray Aqueno lives in Bay Ridge but works uptown on 160th Street in Manhattan.
“It’s going to be a little different. Every day I have to go to work,” he said. “Now, I’ll have to leave at least a half hour earlier. I have to transfer or take a bus. It’s a long ride.”
Local politicians and advocacy groups also made recommendations.
Councilmember Stephen Levin is calling for expanding CitiBike bike share stations in the affected areas, as well as increased coordination with the East River Ferry and MetroCard transfers. Assemblymember Joseph Lentol is hoping that the not only will the initial impact of G train repairs be lessened by the weekend construction schedule, but that additional subway improvements will be made in the process. And Councilmember Vincent Gentile and State Senator Marty Golden called for measures including increased express bus service and reduced MetroCard fares during the Montague Tube closure.
For more information, visit the Fix & Fortify section at www.mta.info.