Repair work hurts Long Island City businesses

Passengers walk down the stairs at the Vernon Boulevard 7 train stop in Long Island City Tuesday. Businesses in the Hunters Point area say the shutdown of 7 train service during the weekends is threatening their bottom line. Photo by Jeremy Walsh
By Jeremy Walsh

A double whammy of transportation setbacks is putting the pinch on businesses in Long Island City’s Hunters Point, leaving many angry with the city for not consulting them.

At the beginning of the month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it would close the No. 7 train between Queens Plaza and Grand Central Station for nine weekends to conduct track and signal repairs. Hunters Point, which sits between Queens Plaza and Midtown, is right in the middle of the gap.

“The MTA didn’t even come to the community and say, ‘This is what we’re doing,’ ” said Brian Adams, who runs Delta Force Army & Navy Surplus store on Vernon Boulevard. “DOT needs to get down here and talk to the businesses.”

Adams, also president of the Hunters Point Merchants Association, said business in the neighborhood is down as much as 70 percent as a result.

The MTA is offering shuttle service from the Vernon stop to Queens Plaza, but many business owners say the service is too slow to be effective.

City Councilman Eric Gioia (D−Sunnyside) has called on the MTA to offer direct shuttle bus service from Hunters Point to Midtown via the Queens Midtown Tunnel. A spokesman for the councilman said Monday that he was “in contact” with the agency about establishing such a route.

In addition, the Borden Avenue Bridge, which spans the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek along the quickest route to Vernon Boulevard from the Long Island Expressway, will be closed through July for structural repairs, the city Department of Transportation said.

Terri Adams, president of the Hunters Point Community Development Corp., lamented the long waits for shuttle buses at No. 7 train stops.

“This wouldn’t happen in Manhattan and it shouldn’t happen in Queens,” she said.

Wahid Zaib, who works the counter at a deli on the corner of 50th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard, said the lack of transit has contributed to the worst month of business he has seen in seven years.

“It looks empty, you know?” he said of the sidewalks along Vernon Boulevard on Saturdays. “We’re losing 30 percent to 40 percent of our business.”

For Dr. Dan Weinstein, a dentist whose office is a few steps away from the Vernon 7 train stop, the service cuts have caused problems for both his patients and his employees, who come from both the west and east via the subway. On Saturday, he sent his business partner to Queens Plaza to pick up one of his workers, who wound up stranded at the 74th Street stop for half an hour. They were late opening the office as a result, he said.

“First of all, nobody really wants to come to the dentist to begin with,” he said. “If you give them an obstacle, they’re just as likely to stay home.”

Weinstein, who estimated his business was down 20 percent because of the transit issues, said this was not the first time the line has been shut down, noting the MTA cut service in a similar fashion for five years in the 1990s.

“It’s been a chronic problem for years,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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