By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge residents who ride the R train to work were greeted at their local subway station by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilman Vincent Gentile on Friday morning, but the two lawmakers weren’t there just to engage in friendly handshakes with straphangers.
Quinn and Gentle (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) came to the R train station on 95th Street and Fourth Avenue at 7:30 a.m. to warn rush hour riders of the impending closure of the Montague Street Tunnel and how it will have a big impact on their commute to Manhattan.
The speaker and the councilman stood at the top of the stairs leading to the subway platform handing out fliers containing the stark headline “Train Closure” to residents who were rushing to catch the Manhattan-bound R train.
Starting Aug. 3, the tunnel, which provides the link between Brooklyn and Manhattan for the R train, will be closed for a period of 14 months so that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) can repair the extensive damage the tunnel sustained during Superstorm Sandy last October.
The tunnel closure will mean that Manhattan-bound R trains will terminate at Court Street. R train riders will have to find other ways to get to Manhattan. Riders can transfer to other subway lines at the Court Street, Jay Street/Metrotech, DeKalb Avenue, or Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center stations.
The flier contained information about other alternatives, such as increasd service on the X27 express bus and the addition of so-called "gap trains" that will be up and running if there are delays on the R, D, N, 4, or 5 trains.
While some passengers rushed past Quinn and Gentile with barely a nod, others eagerly took the fliers as they raced down the stairs to the subway platform to catch the train. A few people took a flier and started reading it as they walked down the stairs.
The goal was to draw people’s attention to the fact that their commute is going to drastically change starting Aug. 3, Quinn said. “When you say ‘repairs,’ people don’t pay attention. But when you say ‘tunnel closure,’ they come back up the stairs and say ‘What? What are you talking about?’” Quinn said.
Almost as soon as the MTA announced that it was going to close the Montague Street Tunnel, Gentile began lobbying for the establishment of an emergency ferry service for Bay Ridge and Sunset Park residents. Under the plan, the ferry, which would run from the Brooklyn Army Terminal pier in Sunset Park to a pier near Wall Street, would provide an alternative means of transportation to Manhattan for R train riders. “We’re working on it,” Gentile told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
So far, however, the MTA, the New York City Department of Transportation, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the agency which has jurisdiction over the waterfront, have not signed on to the ferry idea.
Gentle said he’s not giving up. The ferry service would be in operation for the duration of the tunnel repair project, under his plan.
Quinn, who also supports the idea of a ferry, said she’d like to see the service extended beyond the repair project. “I think the people of Bay Ridge should have a permanent ferry service,” she said.
While the subway visit had a serious purpose, Quinn, the frontrunner in the mayor’s race, according to most polls, looked like she was having fun greeting riders.
She was treated like a celebrity by some residents. “I’m star struck!” said one young woman who rushed past but then came back up the stairs to shake the council speaker’s hand. A young man asked Quinn to pose for a picture with him. He took the picture with his cell phone. Another man shouted “Chris!” and greeted Quinn like an old friend.