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Mud on the Tracks

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Carroll Gardens

Mud on the Tracks


Published: July 8, 2007


Anyone who has stood for very long in the F subway station at Carroll Street, or Smith and Ninth Streets, or Church Avenue, has noticed them: the little-used express tracks through the stations that have lain dormant since the 1970s. Even more frustrating to impatient would-be riders on increasingly crowded platforms is the use of these very tracks to transport the occasional empty trains on a fast lane to destinations unknown.


One F train rider to peer down at the tracks in perplexity over the years is City Councilman Bill de Blasio, who mused last week, “You can see the promised land, but you can’t enter it.”


Another was Gary Reilly, a 33-year-old lawyer who moved to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, two and a half years ago. He has wondered about the deserted express tracks for about that long, and then, in June, he started an online petition urging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to restore express service on the F line through Brooklyn. Now, the train runs in the borough only locally.


Mr. Reilly announced his petition, which also calls for an extension of V train local service into the borough, in a one-minute speech a few weeks ago at a meeting of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association. Since then, interest has been intense, with 2,800 signatures gathered online (at http://www.petitiononline.com/bkln4fnv/petition-sign.html), a rally late last month attended by Councilmen de Blasio, Simcha Felder and Domenic Recchia Jr. and, at a meeting of the transportation authority’s board, encouraging words from board members.


Mr. Reilly said his petition comes at the perfect time, with the population of several neighborhoods swelling along the F line and the city seeking improvements in mass transit to accompany the mayor’s “congestion pricing” proposal to reduce traffic. The unused tracks, Mr. Reilly said, represent an untapped resource.


“It would cost billions of dollars to build those express tracks today,” he said, “and they’re sitting there doing nothing.”


But there are good reasons for that inactivity, said Deirdre Parker, a spokeswoman for the transportation authority. Restoration of F service is being held up for at least four years by work to repair facilities near the Bergen Street subway station that were damaged in a 1999 fire, and by work on the Culver Viaduct, the railroad bridge over the Gowanus Canal.


Mr. de Blasio, however, would like to see the authority restore express service while those projects are going on, or at least set a clear timeline for restoration. “Is there no other way but to wait for everything to be done?” he said. “If it was more of a priority, could they find a way to work around it?”

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