Brooklyn Politicians Clash Over F Express Train

NEW YORK -
F express
(Matt Csenge)

Brooklyn elected officials are clashing over the new F express train, which will eliminate several local trains on the line.

The MTA announced earlier this month that starting in September, two Manhattan-bound trains between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m., and two Coney Island-bound trains between 5:00 and 5:40 p.m., will operate express between Church Ave. and Jay St-MetroTech, stopping only at 7 Ave., skipping a total of six stations.

At the MTA’s monthly board meeting Monday, several elected officials representing various Brooklyn neighborhoods registered to give public comments.

“We would be delighted to see a real F express train, which would add service to the line, in order to shorten travel times for riders in southern Brooklyn … without reducing service for others,” said Councilman Brad Lander, who represents Borough Park and Kensington, which would benefit from the plan, as well as neighborhoods like Park Slope and Red Hook, where the skipped stops are located. “The current proposal, however, adds no new train service. Instead, it simply eliminates service during rush hour at six local stations, some of the busiest and most used ones on the line, stations that already experience significant overcrowding.”

Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, who represents neighborhoods with skipped stops, like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, criticized what she said was a lack of communication by the MTA.

“We were not informed of this beforehand,” said Simon. “Even if you’re coming out with a proposal that you know we’re going to hate, I’d like to know about it.”

Simon said the MTA “should be adding service, not reducing service anywhere in the system.”

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Councilman Brad Lander speaking against the F express plan, at the MTA board meeting Monday in Lower Manhattan. (MTA)

Opponents of the plan argue that express service could be provided, without reducing local service, via a currently disused express track in south Brooklyn, and by modernizing the signal system to allow for a shorter interval between trains. But MTA officials say this would not be possible without significantly more funding to upgrade the signal system, and added trains and personnel.

But advocates of the F express say that while they support more systemwide improvements, in the meantime they believe the F express would provide a substantial service to those who live farthest from Manhattan, with just a minor inconvenience to those who live closest to Manhattan, in the skipped-over neighborhoods.

“What we’re talking about here is not letting the imperfect be the enemy of the greatest that we can possibly get,” said Councilman Kalman Yeger, who represents Borough Park, Kensington and Midwood. “We’re asking some people in New York City to wait on a platform for approximately a minute more – those who live closest to Manhattan – in exchange for which those who live farther away will see their commutes reduced by 20 to 30 minutes.”

Lander referred to the plan as “pitting riders against each other and polarizing the F train community.”

But Yeger said, “I view ‘polarizing’ as this conversation: a debate about whether some in New York City can give one or two minutes extra on the platform in exchange for others to have their commutes speeded up by 20-30 minutes.”

Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, a neighborhood he referred to as “the outer-outerborough,” said that while he does not like “the idea of neighborhoods being pit against each other — every neighborhood in New York City and in Brooklyn deserves good, reliable transportation,” a person living on the west end of Coney Island regularly faces a 90-minute commute to Lower Manhattan.

“That’s daily life for residents in the west end of Coney Island – hour-and-a-half commutes. It’s outrageous,” said Treyger. “The F express is something that we used to have, and we should have it back.”

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Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein speaking in favor of the F express plan, at the MTA board meeting, Monday. (Benjamin Kanter)

A previous iteration of express service was suspended in 1987 due to track work, but after the work was completed, the express service was not restored.

Express service on the line was restored in the summer of 2016 on a limited basis. At the time, it was expected that more regular express service would be implemented the following summer, but in fact, it never returned.

Supporters of the plan say this limited restoration of F service should be just the beginning.

“In an ideal world, there would be express F train service throughout the day or, at a minimum, throughout peak hours, and across the entire line,” said Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, whose district includes Borough Park and Midwood. “I understand that this is just a first step, and I look forward to the day when a fully functioning F express train is the reality.”

Staffers for U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler (Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Coney Island) and Max Rose (Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Gravesend) also spoke at the meeting in favor of the F express plan.

Lander requested that even if this plan is implemented in September, the MTA should not eliminate local service any further, and should “address growing needs in Gowanus,” a neighborhood affected by the station closures, such as “the restoration of an east-west bus route across the Gowanus Canal, and improvements at the affected stations, including an elevator and stairwell additions” at the Carroll Street and Bergen Street stations.

The F express plan does not require a vote by the board, and is set to be implemented in September.

As to whether there is a plan to eventually add more F express service, an MTA spokesman told Hamodia that the agency will monitor the limited express service for rider reactions, and evaluate how to proceed.

rborchardt@hamodia.com