By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN – When the southern terminal of the G train was extended south from Smith-9th Street to Church Avenue in 2009, many Park Slope and Carroll Garden residents guardedly welcomed the change.
Still, at that time, the main issue for transit advocates along that portion of the line was the push for four-track express service on the F train, which shares part of its route with the G.
Now, express service on the F is on the back burner and many Brooklyn officials and civic activists are mobilizing to keep the expanded G service, which was instituted as a temporary measure while the tracks on the Culver Viaduct are repaired. G trains previously used those overhead tracks, which span the Gowanus Canal, to change direction south of Smith-9th Street.
The MTA hasn’t made up its mind on whether G service to Church Avenue will continue. In any case, a decision is two years away, since the Culver Viaduct work probably won’t be completed until 2014. But community members – both at the southern and northern ends of the G line -- are pressing the issue.
Chief among these is Democratic State Committeeman Lincoln Restler of the 50th A.D. (Greenpoint/Williamsburg/Fort Greene).
“The G train unites many areas of Brooklyn. Many Williamsburg residents take the G to get to Prospect Park, and many Windsor Terrace residents take to get to restaurants, bars and shops in Williamsburg,” he said.
When this reporter mentioned that Prospect Park-bound transit riders could take the G to Smith-9th Street and then change to the F train in the event of a cutback, Restler said, “During the weekends, riders would likely have to wait 8 to 10 minutes on the platform for the F train to come. We need a single-line ride.”
The B69 bus from Downtown Brooklyn to Kensington has been substantially cut back, Restler added, making the north-south connection provided by the G train even more important.
Restler has put a petition online called “Metropolitan Transit Authority: Preserve the G Train Extension” (http://www.change.org/petitions/metropolitan-transit-authority-preserve-...) which, since the beginning of this week, had received 2,338 signatures as this article was being written yesterday afternoon.
Among the comments left by people who signed the petition were:
“I live in North Brooklyn, and have family and friends in Windsor Terrace that it would take over an hour and three trains to go and see” (from Kevin McElroy);
“My girlfriend lives in P Slope and we'll have to break up if the G line stops the extension there” (from P. Botha); and
“As a real estate agent, I rely heavy on the G train and find it to be the most important line in Brooklyn” (from Emilio Martinez).
On another website, the Windsor Terrace Alliance’s Yahoo group, Joy Rich, a member of the resident advisory board of the Kensington Area Resident-Merchant Alliance, wrote, “I haven't heard or read about even one person objecting to having the G train permanently make stops up to Church Avenue.”
She cited the success of Restler’s petition as “a very clear indication of people’s wishes and their hope that the MTA will come through for them.”
Several elected officials have joined the fight to keep the G train extension. Alex Moore, a spokesman for Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope/Kensington) said, “The councilman seeks to keep the G train extension,and he urges the MTA to do so.” Lander will be organizing to stop any cutbacks to the southern end of the G, Moore added.
The Straphangers Campaign, a well-known transit riders’ advocacy group, has also come out in support of continuing G service to Church Avenue.
On its northern end, the G, originally known as the “Brooklyn-Queens Crosstown Local,” has already been cut back from its original terminal in Forest Hills, Queens. This service was reduced in stages until Court Square, two stops north of the Brooklyn-Queens border, was instituted as the line’s full-time northern terminal in 2010.
The end of Forest Hills service produced even more of an outcry than the current one over service to Church Avenue. These cutbacks, along with the fact that G trains are only four cars long, have made many observers think of the G as the stepchild of the transit system.