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L train shutdown mitigation plan prompts suit from lower Manhattan residents

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The lawsuit calls for an environmental review and the installation of A.D.A.-accessible elevators at L train stations

The looming L train shutdown that will halt service on one of the city’s busiest train routes from Williamsburg through the west side of Manhattan is poised to create a fresh transit hell around 14th Street, and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods are none too happy about it.

To recap, the mitigation plan proposed for the shutdown would create a vehicle-free 14th Street with dedicated bus lanes, along with a new ferry route, HOV restrictions, protected bike lanes on 13th Street, and a number of bus routes as alternatives for the L’s 400,000 daily riders.

The exclusive busway on 14th Street (also known as the PeopleWay) is intended to alleviate commuters’ woes by offering a more accessible alternative route for pedestrians, bus riders, and cyclists. The 14th Street bus route and its extension into Williamsburg is also poised to become the busiest bus route in the country, serving as many as 84,000 riders a day, the New York Times says.

In the West Village, bike traffic is expected to balloon by over 70 percent during peak rush hours. And three new bus routes will be created for the 70 buses per hour that will cross the Williamsburg bridge and serve neighborhoods like Chinatown and Soho. It won’t be business as usual in lower Manhattan following the April 2019 shutdown, and that has some area resident up in arms.

On Tuesday morning, a coalition of more than two dozen Greenwich Village and Chelsea block associations, as well as two disability rights groups, announced the filing of an anticipated lawsuit to stop the repair of the L train tunnel under the East River. The lawsuit, filed by attorney Arthur Schwartz, alleges that the government failed to conduct an environmental impact statement, and that the plan doesn’t comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Villager reports.

The suit names as defendants the MTA, New York City Transit, the New York Department of Transportation, and the Federal Transportation Administration and goes on to allege that the FTA has “failed to enforce compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act” or NEPA, despite being a federally funded project.

Schwartz argues that under NEPA and consequent of the project’s federal funding, it’s legally required that A.D.A.-accessible elevators be installed at L train stations. (There’s no doubt they’re sorely needed.)

In addition to pushing for an E.I.S. and the installation of A.D.A.-accessible elevators, the lawsuit also seeks to stay funding for and any work on the tunnel during the shutdown.

The lawsuit also motions to fears that displaced car traffic from 14th Street will overwhelm lower Manhattan’s narrow historic streets. Additionally, New York Times reporter Sarah Maslin Nir tweeted that the lawsuit expresses fears that the increased flow of traffic will risk damaging the “delicate infrastructure of our historic low-rise area full of 180-200 year old” brownstones.

“I’m a big believer in planning, not just imposing,” Schwartz told Curbed in an earlier interview. “I’m not some conservative who wants things to stay the same, but I also believe that people’s communities should be respected.”