Hipsters Stranded In Transportation Purgatory: Will The L Train Shutdown De-Gentrify Williamsburg?

What could be worse than facing such a fate every day for your commute? Well, not having an L train at all.

By Dan Bratman July 27, 2016
Photo courtesy of Humane Pursuits

Anyone who has ever had the great misfortune of riding the L train during rush hour would be qualified to add an extra chapter to Dante’s Inferno. A crushing, sweaty, infinite-headed monster with one hundred briefcases and one thousand scowling eyes awaits you as the doors open on the Manhattan-bound side of the Bedford Avenue stop. What could be worse than facing such a fate every day for your commute?

Well, not having an L train at all.

Related: How Crown Heights Became Poster Child For Brooklyn Gentrification

And, we are soon to find out what fresh heck the MTA has in store for those trans-borough travelers. On July 26th, the MTA made those horrible rumors fact by announcing the 2019 closure of the L train between Brooklyn and Manhattan. says, “The MTA needs to repair the Canarsie Tunnel which connects Manhattan and Brooklyn along the L train line and needs to fully shut down service between Manhattan and Brooklyn for 18 months or partially shut down service for three years. Repair work will begin in 2019 and the MTA will announce by the end of summer whether to opt for a full or partial shutdown. Service along the L train in Brooklyn will remain mostly unaffected during the prolonged outage.”

As anyone involved in real estate—which is everyone—knows, Williamsburg has been a template for the gentrification handbook. In the past decade or so, the hipster haven—and now its surrounding neighborhoods—has exploded in a frenzy of real estate development and economic growth. According toThe Real Estate Board Of New York second quarter sales report, one hundred and twenty condos were sold in Williamsburg between April and June, 43 percent more than the same period last year. But will this real estate dream turn into a nightmare if the L train shuts down?

Probably. The same report by The Real Estate Board also says that while condo sales continues to rise precipitously, the average price for condos had fallen 13 percent. Is this because of the rumors of the L train closing? It’s difficult to say for sure but the stats would make that a valid guess.

Many have fled Manhattan to Brooklyn seeking lower rents (not so much anymore) and quieter streets and the L train has played an important role in the migration. Williamsburg first became popular because of its creative class cred and its proximity to Manhattan. It has the best of everything—artisanal pickle shops, defiant facial hair and a ten-minute commute to Manhattan. But as the balance of perfection is disturbed, how will real estate prices react? Take into account an 18-month shutdown of the L and the notorious unpredictability of the MTA, the market seems poised to be undermined. While it’s too early to truly see a pattern, local business are girding their loins for battle.

Real estate adviser for Cayuga Capital Jamie Wiseman told, “Maybe I can get a better lease deal and when the train comes back it’s even better. Maybe this is an opportunity to cut a better deal,” said Wiseman, who added that potential tenants have bargained between 5 and 15 percent rent decreases during the shutdown. “That might be the difference between them making money and not.”

While the L train shutdown will certainly be a commuting disaster, it’s hard to say exactly what the effects will be on real estate. Will you suddenly be able to rent a two bedroom on Bedford Ave for $2,000 a month? Will there be a crippling shortage of beard oil in Manhattan? Only time will tell. But for now, enjoy your ability to magically transport between boroughs while you can.

Dan Bratman



Dan began his career at the age of four when he wrote a poem for his mother about farmers. While his mom believes this was the peak of his career, he went on to publish poetry, fiction and countless articles. For the last seven years, Dan has worked as writer and editor for numerous publications around the world.
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