New North Brooklyn renters 'strike gold' as Cuomo cancels full L train shutdown

By Nikki M. Mascali  | January 3, 2019 - 4:00PM

Thanks to the L train shutdown (that's now not happening), Williamsburg was the only NYC neighborhood that had a drop in rental demand over the past year. 

Sergei Gussev/Flickr

Cancel the hysteria: In a surprise announcement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said the "L-apocalypse" is not happening, according to the The New York Times. You could almost hear the shrieks of happiness—or agony, from people who already made plans to avoid it.

The looming 15-month shutdown that was set to being April 27 was expected to impact straphangers, and real estate, along the troubled subway line. Now, repair work is going to be done on nights and weekends over the course of 15 to 20 months, keeping the L train’s rush-hour service intact. Trains will still operate at night and on weekends, with longer wait times.

Not shuttering the subway line completely is a “phenomenal benefit to the people of New York City,” Cuomo tells the New York Times.

The change comes after an expert panel recommended a new design to repair the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River, which was badly damaged by floodwaters during Hurricane Sandy. The “major breakthrough” design has been used in Europe, and “is the first of its kind in the United States of America,” the governor says.

While that’s likely great news for hundreds of thousands of straphangers, including the 225,000 that take the L from Brooklyn to Manhattan, it's bound to be a different story for developers, landlords, and those New Yorkers who still live along the subway line.

Since the shutdown was announced in April 2016, rents in North Brooklyn fell 1.5 percent, while rents in the borough rose by a cumulative 3.3. percent, says Grant Long, senior economist at StreetEasy.

“With today’s news that the L train shutdown no longer appears necessary, renters who have managed to negotiate deals in recent months have struck gold,” Long says. “Look for rents to rise sharply as many who thought they were forced to look elsewhere adjust to the new reality of minimal disruption.”

Similar to what was seen in Long Island City after the Amazon HQ2 announcement, Eric Mendelsohn, a broker at Warburg Realty, expects to see a “significant uptick” in open house attendance in the coming weeks. 

“Buyers will expect that prices have bottomed out in Williamsburg, and they will be intrigued to check out what’s currently on the market,” he adds. “In addition, current buyers and renters who were only looking at Southern Brooklyn due to the transportation may be willing to consider looking at neighborhoods along the L train line again. Certainly, it will be a nice unexpected bump for sales and rental demand in those neighborhoods.”

But as the Cuomo’s plans include a “substantial degree of uncertainty, that could weigh on both sales and rentals in the area going forward,” Long adds.

“While we predicted that many Brooklynites had underestimated the inconvenience of the looming shutdown, we expect many will similarly underestimate the commuting headaches that still lie ahead, with officials trading a sharp but short period of inconvenience with a less disruptive but more uncertain plan.”

But in the end, riders only care whether the L train is repaired long-term, “and how much disruption it will take to get there,” says John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance.

“The governor's plan may or may not work, but you'll pardon transit riders for being skeptical that a last-minute Hail Mary idea cooked up over Christmas is better than what the MTA came up with over three years of extensive public input.”


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