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Williamsburg umbrella factory goes condo, more subway trouble for Cuomo, and more

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Three things you need to know today

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

A nudge to give up your subway seat

The MTA has tried all manner of campaigns (“Courtesy counts!”) to get straphangers to abide by certain should-be-obvious-but-apparently-they’re-not rules of subway etiquette: don’t hug the pole, don’t manspread, let people off the train first, and give up your seat to those who are pregnant, elderly, or have mobility issues.

The latest effort on the MTA’s part is aimed squarely at that last problem: The New York Times reports that the agency will create very visible buttons that proclaim “Baby on Board!” (for pregnant women) or “Please Offer Me a Seat” (for the elderly and disabled). “We hope this campaign will help their fellow riders to be more willing to offer them a seat without having to ask a personal question first,” Veronique Hakim, the MTA’s interim executive director, said in a statement.

The blue-and-yellow pins will be available as part of a pilot program from now until Labor Day. They were inspired by a similar campaign in London, underway since 2005, that encourages Tube passengers to give up their seats for those in need.

But as the Times points out, the program is likely to hit some snags: In London, “woman was humiliated, she said, when a man asked her to prove she was pregnant”—good job, dude. And putting the onus on the person who needs a seat, rather than the oblivious able-bodied folks who might be inclined (or not!) to give theirs up, seems a little unfair. But hey, if it makes someone’s commute less terrible, it’s worth a try.

Speaking of terrible commutes…

Power Outage Affects MTA Subway Service Citywide Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

We all know that the subway has problems—big, never-ending problems, which seem to be getting worse and worse. And to add insult to injury, the man who could help fix these problems—Governor Andrew Cuomo—seems to be AWOL, possibly by choice. So what happens next?

That’s the question the Times attempts to answer in a new look at the problems plaguing the subway system, and what the MTA is doing to address them. And there’s some good news: Per the Times, “the authority will announce a $20 million plan to target frequent causes of delays, including overcrowding and signal problems,” to begin on the Eighth Avenue lines in Manhattan.

But fixing the issue won’t be that simple, in part because of the longstanding feud between Cuomo—who controls the MTA—and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Times piece lays out why this is a problem, but the TL;DR version: De Blasio isn’t criticizing Cuomo more for fear of pissing the governor off; New Yorkers are the ones who suffer. “They’re letting this disagreement, this feud, have a deleterious effect on the state and the city, and that’s scary,” MTA board member David R. Jones told the Times.

The piece also includes this bit of shade at the governor and the mayor: “The two leaders perhaps do not appreciate the extent of riders’ misery, since they prefer to travel by car.” Indeed.

More condos for Williamsburg

So the story goes in Williamsburg: yet another former factory building will be converted into condos. The Real Deal reports that SL Development purchased the site at 722 Metropolitan Avenue, and will eventually transform it into a condo building with 69 apartments. The price tag: $23 million.

Rendering via SL Development

One interesting detail: According to Ray Steffen, one of the principals for SL Development, the price was “absolutely” affected by the forthcoming L train shutdown, which promises to muck up the neighborhood in various and sundry ways once it gets underway in 2019. “The market is down 10 to 15 percent,” Steffen told TRD.

As part of the conversion, four floors will be added to the existing building; the whole thing should be done by 2019, according to SL—just in time for the shutdown to start.