How to Get From Williamsburg to Manhattan Without the L Train

Come 2019, Brooklyn’s over-exposed neighborhood will lose its major artery. Here’s how to keep the flow.

Brooklyn L Train Shutdown
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Life in the chia-flecked socio-cultural pudding of Williamsburg, Brooklyn is soon to curdle. Starting in 2019, New York will close the Canarsie Tunnel, which accommodates the L train, for a period of 18 months in order to repair damage incurred when Hurricane Sandy flooded the tube with hundreds of thousands of gallons of brackish water. Service between Brooklyn and Manhattan will cease. In considering the project, which will disrupt the daily commutes of some 225,000 riders, the MTA considered a partial, three-year shutdown or the total, 18-month option, and picked the latter. Somewhat startlingly, the MTA offered no solutions for the massive disruption, although increased bus service and the redesignation of 14th Street as a bike-, pedestrian-, and bus-exclusive thoroughfare are being considered.

That high, keening sound you hear is fifty-thousand chakras losing their alignment; ten-thousand finance bros losing a Crossfit-fueled peace; and two hundred Brioni-clad real-estate brokers cracking plates of condo-quality marble over each other's heads. In a neighborhood known for cool, the announcement has been met with earnest concern.

While some profit-chasing privateers have suggested solutions as bizarre as an East River gondola, there are actually over a dozen existing ways to get a person from, say, the Momofuku Milk Bar on Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Ave. to the Momofuku Milk Bar in the East Village.

So, here’s how to get to Manhattan from Williamsburg, even in the sweltering summer of 2021, when L train service will be a quaint memory—and the neighborhood's riverside luxury condos transformed into abandoned testaments to the dangers of real estate speculation.*

  1. Take the J, M, or Z train from the Marcy Avenue stop and hop out at the Delancey-Essex Street stop. Voila! You’re in Manhattan. Go enjoy a $90 smoked salmon platter—you deserve the Omega-3s, you weary bastard.
  2. Pick up a CitiBike, courtesy of the New York City and a friendly local bank that last year was forced by the CFPB to pay $700 million in penalties following widespread defrauding of its credit card customers. Grab a hearty, scrambled ostrich egg at Black Tree, then snatch a cycle at Roebling and North 4th and pedal over the Williamsburg Bridge, pursued by the ghost of the baby, flightless bird upon whose life you nibbled.
  3. While before 2003 or so you had to literally trick a cab driver into taking you from Manhattan, today, you can use Uber to summon a late-model Toyota Camry to take you to or from Williamsburg—and not only will the driver smile, he’ll likely offer you a small Poland Spring, which you won’t drink, because you’re from Williamsburg and drink Fiji.
  4. Not getting your daily allowance of sulfur? Take the lovely and smelly East River Ferry, which leaves from both North 6th Street and South Williamsburg stations. Before the world’s premier selfie platform, the Williamsburg Bridge, was built in 1903, boat was the only means by which to get between Williamsburg and Manhattan. Call it a #TBT, or Walt Whitman homage.
  5. What’s a bus if not a sunlit subway car—the perfect solution for those nostalgic for their beloved, Eighth Avenue-bound sardine tin. The B39 trundles over the Williamsburg Bridge every 20-30 minutes, belching no more smoke than the Sarah Lawrence grad sucking an American Spirit on the pedestrian path just above the roadway.
  6. Looking for a cheap, low-resistance, fat-burning workout to make those Pilates ladies cringe with jealousy (in addition to their standard lactic-acid grimaces)? Try walking! With a pair of on-trend Birkenstocks or normcore, flesh-colored New Balances, the span of the Williamsburg bridge shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to traverse.
  7. Hitchhiking is legal in 44 states, and regulations are softly enforced in the remaining six, including New York. We can’t really recommend posting up with a thumb out on the entrance ramp, but Continental Army Plaza, just adjacent, sure is nice during . . . commuting hours.
  8. Arguably, kayaking in the East River, one of world’s busiest commercial waterways, is like riding a unicycle on the BQE. Still, kayaks tone the back and provide unparalleled views of lower Manhattan. Just don’t get steamed by a tugboat.
  9. Befriend whoever keeps parking a Rolls-Royce Wraith outside of my old Wash-n-Fold. Surely, the owner of this $350,000 coupe could afford garage parking, and yet, there she parks. The only answer is that Lonely Billionaire is looking for, perhaps, three friends to share the Connolly hides of her ghostly cabin. Voila: your new L Train, now with 99 percent fewer people and 100 percent more burled walnut.
  10. Tomorrow, July 26th, Williamsburg’s long-awaited-and-even-longer-denigrated Whole Foods opens on Bedford Avenue, home of some of the city’s highest commercial rents. With 51,000 square feet, the grocery behemoth will be more than big enough to contain whatever the borough’s latest food trends. (Avocados? Very late-2014.) Little known fact: Every Whole Foods in the country is connected by a series of underground tunnels. Why not enter on Bedford Avenue and pop up in the store’s East Village location? We can’t tell you exactly where the door is, but we will say: fair-trade fruit leather.
  11. You just know Ansel Elgort and his ox-broad shoulders will be whipping a fine-ass longboard across the bridge. Why not climb aboard, waving a shaka sign as you cruise towards New York City on the back of a seven-foot tall cherub?
  12. Sell your eternal soul to Lucifer and in exchange, request a pair of black, leathery wings, upon which you may sail towards the city. Be forewarned, though: considering past experiences with Williamsburg landlords and patrons of Freehold, the skies might get mighty crowded come 2019.

*Should I have missed some essential/convenient/obvious means of transport, please note it in the comments. I will add it to my list of daily failures and lengthen my self-flagellation routine accordingly.