May 28, 2008

Brooklyn Courier Coverage of the G Train Rally

‘Rodney’ rider backlash on the G:
Advocates call for improved service on overlooked subway line

By Stephen Witt

A Downtown Brooklyn lawmaker last week charged that straphangers who ride the G train get no respect.

“Rodney Dangerfield was treated with more respect then the G train rider, but that needs to change because the communities of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill heavily rely on this subway line to get to work and to conduct their lives,” said Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries.

The G train, which only runs with four cars, is the MTA’s only full-time non-shuttle service that does not enter Manhattan.

Currently the line runs from Smith and 9th Streets through Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill on the F line and then across Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford Stuyvesant, Williamsburg and Greenpoint before terminating in Queens.

However, the MTA has announced a three-year rehabilitation of the Culver Viaduct line from 2009–2012.

As part of that project, the G train service, which currently terminates at Smith–Ninth Streets, will be permanently extended to Church Avenue on the Kensington/Windsor Terrace border.

On a recent MTA rider survey report card, 3,903 G train riders responded and gave the line a D-plus grade.

Respondents said their top priorities for improvements on the line included reasonable wait times for trains, minimal delays during trips and adequate room on board at rush hour.

Jeffries held a “Save the G Train” rally last week at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford Street, in which he released a letter to MTA officials demanding changes to the line.

“For decades, the G train has been treated like the unwanted stepchild of the New York City subway system. Periodically, it has been threatened with outright elimination,” wrote Jeffries, adding neighborhoods served by the subway line have exploded with population growth and residential development.

Among the changes Jeffries recommended is expanding the number of subway cars from four to six, which will prevent passengers from dashing to the middle of the subway platform in order to catch the train.

Jeffries also recommended an increase in frequency both during rush hours and weekends, and that the MTA study the feasibility of connecting the G train at the Fulton Street station with the nearby Atlantic Ave. transportation hub.

“In the interim, the MTA should permit street transfers between the G train and the multiple subway lines at Atlantic Ave., which all travel into Manhattan,” Jeffries wrote.

May 23, 2008

NY Times article on Wednesday's G Rally

Not to be outdone by the New York Observer, today's New York Times offered this piece by Clyde Haberman:

Rallying Round a Train That Gets No Respect
By Clyde Haberman

If you will excuse a biblical flourish, the G train is the Moses of New York mass transit. Like Moses, it never made it to the Promised Land. That is, if Manhattan is your idea of divine promise. With its nosebleed-inducing apartment prices and rents, some think of it as flowing not so much with milk and honey as with bilk and money.

In any event, the G train has the distinction of being the city’s only subway line that makes no stops in Manhattan, the heart and wallet of New York. It is a lime green squiggle on the subway map, running from Brooklyn to Queens. Much of the day it barely gasps into Queens, making but two stops there. It meanders through Brooklyn neighborhoods like Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene and Greenpoint, places that are enjoying grand revivals and impressive measures of cachet among the young and mobile.

Would that the same might be said of the G line. That was the lament of about 100 people who gathered Wednesday evening at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene for a sort of pep rally.

Next month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will consider possible improvements in subway service. You might not want to hold your breath. But should there be glad tidings, those who ride the G train want to make sure they are not shut out. They attended Wednesday’s meeting much the same way college students ring bonfires before a big football game — to get the juices flowing.

Odds are strong that most of you have never ridden the G. Some of you may have never even heard of it. G train people understand. They’re used to being overlooked. “You can’t spell ‘neglected’ without G,” Councilman David Yassky of Brooklyn said. “You can’t spell ‘ignored’ without G.”

When G riders talk about their line, the phrase “unwanted stepchild” passes their lips a lot. Rodney Dangerfield, as in “I don’t get no respect,” gets his share of mentions, too. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, who organized the church gathering, lost little time before making a Rodney-G connection.

By most measures, the G ranks near the bottom. Transit officials put weekday ridership at 100,000 a day. Only two regular lines, the W and the M, and the system’s three shuttle trains have lower numbers. By comparison, the ridership of the most heavily used line, the No. 6, is 700,000.

In a “report card” that the transportation authority solicited from riders last year, the G line got a dismal D-plus. Even a senior transit official, Peter G. Cafiero, acknowledged at a City Council hearing last month that G service, particularly on the Queens run, is “consistently inconsistent.”
DESPITE improvements in recent years, riders cite statistics showing that G trains still arrive less often than those on most other lines. “I stand at Hoyt-Schermerhorn and wonder when is the Toonerville Trolley going to make it,” said Thomas F. Schutte, the president of Pratt Institute.

That Toonerville Trolley line refers to another distinctive feature of the G train: It is only four cars long. That fact sticks in a lot of craws. With neighborhoods along the line growing, trains are often overcrowded. Then, too, with only four cars, trains do not extend the length of station platforms. “You often see a mad dash to that train,” Mr. Jeffries said. Twisted ankles are not unknown.

In truth, the G has always been short on glamour, even if Charles Mingus once wrote an instrumental number called “GG Train,” the line’s designation before a systemwide phaseout of double letters in the 1980s. A decade ago, Stan Fischler, who has written books on New York’s subways, gave the G his lowest ranking: one star out of five, meaning it was “hardly worth the token.” (Some day, young ’uns, we’ll explain what a token was.)

As much as anything, G riders share the long-simmering resentment of many New Yorkers who live outside Manhattan — namely that they don’t get their due because they are in “the outer boroughs.” Those feelings surfaced more than once on Wednesday, reflected in the applause for Jo Ann Simon, a Democratic district leader in Brooklyn, when she said, “We know that Manhattan is not the center of the universe.”

Clearly, transit officials are sensitive about the unwanted-stepchild charge. Mr. Cafiero went out of his way to reject it at the Council hearing. He also dismissed long-heard whispers that “we are secretly trying to get rid of” the G line entirely. Not so, he said.

Speaking of whispers, allow us to note that tradition holds that Moses stuttered. Kind of like the train service they get, G riders say.


May 22, 2008

NY Observer story on G Rally

The New York Observer published this article by Leigh Kamping-Carder, about Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' G train rally last night:

G Train Rally Kicks Off Campaign to Improve M.T.A.'s 'Forgotten Stepchild'
by Leigh Kamping-Carder
May 22, 2008

"The four-car G train is just like one step above the horse and buggy days," State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn told the crowd at Wednesday night's Save the G rally at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene.

Almost 100 G riders kicked off a month-long campaign to increase service on the "forgotten stepchild" of the New York subway system, as Mr. Jeffries and others have called it.

"It's important to increase the intensity of the public campaign," Mr. Jeffries said, "to stress to the M.T.A. that G train service enhancements are absolutely necessary."

On June 25, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board will meet to discuss system-wide service improvements. Mr. Jeffries, who organized the rally, intends to make sure the G is a top priority. In the coming weeks, G advocates will be writing letters, sending emails, and corralling the support of elected officials in an effort to "convince the M.T.A. to do the right thing," as Mr. Jeffries put it.

In February, the agency announced a plan to increase the frequency of G service during off-peak hours, but these additions have been put on hold indefinitely.

"The M.T.A. is aware of these problems [on the G] but sometimes they just need to be reminded," said Cate Contino, of the Straphangers Campaign.

Ms. Contino was one of a number of speakers who illuminated the unique woes of the G: truncated four-car trains, a lack of street transfers, long waits and a history of service reductions. Cuts to the G have occurred despite the route's expanding ridership, especially in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. In a recent rider report card survey, the G received a D+.

Joe Chan, of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a non-profit local development corporation, spoke of the need to grow downtown Brooklyn as one of the city's financial hubs -- a project he says is hindered by the inadequacies of the G line.

The capacity crowd also included the president of the Pratt Institute, Thomas Schutte, as well as a representative from Brooklyn borough President Marty Markowitz's office, City Council members, community leaders, and residents of Brooklyn and Queens.

It was Mr. Jeffries' rousing call and answer that received the audience's loudest response:

"What do we want?" he chanted.

"More G service!"

"When do we want it?"



May 21, 2008

Looking for News

Since our primary blogger (T) couldn't attend Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' rally, we're looking for comments/highlights from the evening. What was the turnout? What main concerns were expressed? Is any follow-up action planned?

Please comment! (Please, no &!%$ words; this is a family blog.)

May 19, 2008

G Train Rally in Brooklyn this Wednesday

Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is organizing a G train advocacy rally:

Wednesday, May 21 at 6:30 p.m.

at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
85 S. Oxford Street
(between Fulton St. and Lafayette Ave.)

Please call the Assemblyman's district office at (718) 596-0100 for more information.

May 14, 2008

G Train Rally on May 21st

Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is organizing a Save The G kick-off rally:

Wednesday, May 21 at 6:30 p.m.
at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
85 S. Oxford Street
(between Fulton St. and Lafayette Ave.)

Call (718) 596-0100 for more information.