How residents of one New York neighborhood plan to ride out a subway line's shutdown

  • The L train, a subway line which serves the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and part of lower Manhattan, will be shut down for 15 months to fix damage incurred during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
  • The needed track work will be hugely disruptive to the estimated 400,000 daily commuters who use the line to shuttle back and forth from Manhattan, not to mention the local businesses that rely on it for customers.
The Oosten, Williamsburg Brooklyn
Source: Relevance International
The Oosten, Williamsburg Brooklyn

Come April, Brooklyn's trendy Williamsburg area is scheduled to take a big hit – and its residents are already bracing for the blow.

That's because the L train, a subway line which serves the neighborhood and a section of lower Manhattan, will be shut down for 15 months to fix damage incurred during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The needed track work will be hugely disruptive to the estimated 400,000 daily commuters who use the line to shuttle back and forth from Manhattan, not to mention the local businesses that rely on it for customers.

Although transit officials are hard at work to blunt the impact, "the logistics of moving people from here to there in the city is so complex that one change can ripple in ways unknown," Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, who represents the district, told CNBC.

"What I am happy to report is that there is a core, highly sophisticated group of residents and business owners that are meeting with officials, offering solid ideas on how to mitigate the closure," he added.

While the shutdown is still several months off, residents are trying to get ahead of the curve in various ways. With that in mind, CNBC surveyed residents to see how many intend to ride out the disruption.

Coffee and Wi-Fi

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Many service sector workers are already able to work remotely when circumstances require. On any given day, it's not unusual to see people punching the figurative clock at the local Starbucks and other neighborhood haunts.

Along those lines, Foursquare recently published "The 15 Best Coffeeshops with Wi-Fi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn," to guide displaced office workers and their laptops to temporary workstations. The reviews vouch for things no remote worker should be without: strong coffee and fast Wi-Fi.

Share and shared space alike

Inside a Spacious, a coworking service that operates out of New York restaurants.
Andrew Frasz | Spacious
Inside a Spacious, a coworking service that operates out of New York restaurants.

Shared workspaces are a growing trend, and companies like Spacious and WeWork give employees a place to work when the local cafe gets too busy (or noisy). Pricing varies, such as the $99 a month through Spacious to the steeper $475 a month for a "hot desk" at WeWork's Williamsburg location.

Kathy Osborne, an account manager at BAM Communications who just moved to Williamsburg from the Upper East Side, told CNBC that she's "considering getting a membership at the WeWork in Williamsburg and seeing if my company will work with me for more remote days."

Get a ritzy apartment with building perks

The Oosten, Williamsburg Brooklyn
Source: Relevance International
The Oosten, Williamsburg Brooklyn

Williamsburg's influx of professionals and creatives has made the neighborhood one of the city's priciest places to live. In south Williamsburg, a designer building dubbed the "Oosten" encompasses an entire block and offers a raft of amenities. Just be prepared to write a really big check: The price for a two-bedroom unit starts at just under $2 million.

Tyler Whitman, a salesperson at the Triplemint real estate agency, said that he's been approached by potential buyers looking for luxury properties with telecommuting amenities like office space and free Wi-Fi.

"Several listings are around the $1.5-$2 million range," he said. "With that price point, you're looking at a beautiful two-to-three bedroom condo in a newer building, with amenities and beautiful views."

Move out (or move in?)

Pedestrians pass a bodega on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.
Steven Greaves | Getty Images
Pedestrians pass a bodega on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.

In anticipation of the coming chaos, some residents are already moving out of Williamsburg, helping to nudge down prices in one of the city's frothiest markets. Conversely, it's giving a break for New Yorkers on a perpetual hunt for affordable apartments: According to data from MNS Real Estate, the neighborhood's apartment prices dipped 0.6 percent in June.

That's welcome news for people like Catherine Giese, who works for a financial services company, and entrepreneur Frank Denbow, who's planning to relocate to Williamsburg from Brooklyn's Dumbo neighborhood after finding a cheaper apartment.

"Landlords are having a hard time finding people to fill their apartments," Giese told CNBC. "This means that I'll have a much easier time negotiating prices down."

Make alternate travel arrangements

Williamsburg Bridge
Richard Washington | CNBC
Williamsburg Bridge



While the L train is the primary mode of transportation for Williamsburg residents, it's not the only game in town. A luxury jitney service calling itself — wait for it — "The New L" is charging commuters $155 each month to shuttle to and from Manhattan. Each shuttle will offer Internet, breakfast bars and phone chargers.

"The ferry is a good option," said freelance consultant Whitney Meers, referring to the East River ferry that began service in 2017. "There are also carpool services, such as Chariot, that can provide low-cost options to help people get in the city."

Emile L' Eplattenier, a Williamsburg resident and managing editor of the real estate site TheClose.com, said that this transportation problem can be solved with just a little shoe leather.

"It never ceases to amaze me how many people in Williamsburg forget that the J and G trains exist," he joked, referencing two alternative subway lines nearby. "From North Seventh and Driggs, the J is a 15-minute walk or five-minute bus ride. If you live further north, the G at Nassau is a pleasant stroll through the park."

Whatever happens, New Yorkers are resilient, and real estate agent Jamie Fedorko of Warburg Realty said he expects residents to roll with it.

"As a lifelong New Yorker who has lived through many a transportation issue ... I expect that it won't take long for the shutdown to feel like business as usual," he said. "People will get used to it and adapt."