Williamsburg has undoubtedly become one of the hippest neighborhoods in New York City over the past decade. Attracting visitors and residents from across the world, the area has undergone a dramatic transformation, taking a once industrial commercial hub and turning it into a blend of luxury waterfront living and a retail corridor with endless opportunities for dining, entertaining and shopping. The creative atmosphere and artistic influence continues to bind the neighborhood together, all while still paying homage to the long-established communities that have called Williamsburg home before the waterfront was developed.
One of the primary factors involved in Williamsburg’s rise had to do with ease of access to Manhattan. Situated on the Brooklyn waterfront, getting to Williamsburg has always been easy by way of the L Train. As real estate prices increased in Manhattan, it was only a matter of time before people and retailers started seeking out more affordable choices. As Williamsburg developed a hip factor, developers began building, more restaurants started opening and people started buying condos.
L Train Shutdown
The L Train tunnels that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn need to undergo repairs that could amount to $500 million to fix infrastructure that has become severely compromised due to the tunnels flooding in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy struck the city. In order to fix these tunnels, the MTA will need to shut down L train service between the two boroughs for a projected 15 months, which will allow work to take place day and night. Service is expected to cease in the early part of 2019 and resume in 2020. While limited to this time frame, the shutdown will have significant impact on the ability to commute in and out of the neighborhood. Ease of access happens to be the same factor that made Williamsburg so popular.
So will the L Train shutdown have a significant impact on Williamsburg? You bet! Weekday ridership between Manhattan and Brooklyn by way of the L train amounts to 225,000 passengers. While weekend ridership isn’t nearly as high, it’s significantly influenced by visitors. Take the L Train out of the equation, and everything starts getting a bit more complicated. New Yorkers are a resilient bunch. If you think that people are going to pack up shop and head out of Williamsburg because they can’t take the inconvenience, you’re mistaken.
There will be numerous options that exist to get in and out of Williamsburg. They will include:
- Increased J/M/Z Train service
- Increased G Train service
- Shuttles to these train lines and respective subway stops
- Increased ferry service
- Bus service between Williamsburg and Manhattan
- Uber, Lyft and other rideshare alternatives
- Cab service
People who live in Williamsburg will continue to live out there. They may seek slight rent reductions when their leases come up for renewal, but don’t expect landlords to budge too much. Additionally, those that own real estate and are looking to sell are not in panic mode and selling at massive discounts. There is room for negotiations, but overall the pricing of Williamsburg real estate has already factored in the L Train shutdown. Real estate out there will continue to remain desirable.
Williamsburg continues to have some of the best dining and nightlife options in the city. Restaurants like Peter Luger Steakhouse and The Meatball Shop are classics. Don’t think that a 15-month L Train hiatus is going to scare them away. When commercial leases are signed, they generally span 10-year periods, and interior builds of these spaces can cost upwards of a million dollars. Restaurants and bars aren’t going to simply disappear. They may even benefit from the fact that local residents will want to stay local for the purposes of dining and going out.
Retail presence has never been stronger in Williamsburg. In the past year, Bedford Avenue saw the opening of Brooklyn’s first Apple store as well as a Whole Foods Market. Rumor has it that a Trader Joe’s is on its way as well. With big name stores like these and smaller boutiques like Catbird and Brooklyn Denim Co., the stores that have been attracted to Williamsburg are on par with what you might expect to find in Soho.
The fabric that ties Williamsburg together will not be changing during the L Train shutdown. The neighborhood will continue to thrive throughout the closure - people, retailers and developers will continue to be attracted to all that the neighborhood as to offer.