ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to reassure skeptics about his surprise, last-minute plan to repair a key subway tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn without a long-planned and long-dreaded 15-month shutdown.
He spoke to reporters about his proposal Friday, a day after announcing the L-train shutdown wasn't necessary . He urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board to quickly review and vote on his alternative, which would allow trains to run during repairs by using a new tunnel design technique.
Transit officials had planned to shut down a portion of the L Line to allow crews to repair tunnel damage caused by 2012's Superstorm Sandy. The line is one of the city's busiest, running through neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn and carrying nearly a quarter of a million people through the tunnel each day.
Brooklynites had already begun rearranging their lives for the expected "L-pocalypse," with some changing jobs or apartments to avoid the looming commuting snarls.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said he directed a team of engineers from Columbia and Cornell universities to take a second look at the project after he was confronted by a Brooklyn businessman upset about the upheaval the shutdown would cause. He said he understands why subway riders might question the sudden change in plans — which is why it's important for the MTA to give his idea a full review.
"New Yorkers, God bless them, can be a little skeptical and I can see why they would be skeptical in this situation," he said. "This is now a much different plan."
The old plan required crews to remove concrete tunnel walls to access and replace damaged electrical cables before rebuilding the walls — a labor- and time-intensive process.
Under Cuomo's new approach, the concrete walls would remain in place and new cables would be installed inside the tunnel, allowing trains to operate while the work is being completed.
While local officials and many riders expressed relief at Cuomo's new plan, some also questioned why the new proposal hadn't already been considered.
"If the governor's plan is an effective solution, the MTA should have adopted it long ago," said City Councilman Jumaane Williams. Williams, of Brooklyn, said he found the timing and motivation of Cuomo's announcement "suspect," coming as it did after years of public meetings and debate on the shutdown.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking Friday on WNYC radio, praised Cuomo for seeking an "innovative approach," but called it "a little strange" that a new plan emerged just months before the shutdown was scheduled to begin.
"Obviously, the MTA has some real explaining to do," he said. "Why on earth wasn't it considered previously?"
The MTA, which operates in the city and its suburbs but is controlled by the governor, has not yet scheduled a vote on Cuomo's repair plan.
On Thursday, MTA Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer called the new plan "an innovative and more efficient approach" and said the agency would adopt it in full.