Once more, western Queens business owners could potentially say goodbye to a profitable winter.
The No. 7 line weekend service between Queens and Manhattan is being suspended until the end of March, and many area business owners fear that this will affect the influx of customers they usually get.
The award-winning Chocolate Factory Theater in Long Island City is just one of the many organizations expecting a severe blow to their business this season.
“We [will be] unable to commission work, to present work,” said Sheila Lewandowski of the theater company. “If our audience can’t get here, what are we saying to our artists?”
The Chocolate Factory planned four shows for the coming winter months, and is expecting around 5,000 people to attend. They have artists coming in from all over the world, and, according to Lewandowski, artists who have been preparing for these shows for years.
“The No. 7 train is part of the ticket,” said Lewandowski, who fears that without the subway line, artists will have a difficult time getting to the theater, or that the number of attendees will significantly decrease.
Lewandowski also said that, had they been informed of the closures a month or two ago, shows could have been rescheduled. But, with the two weeks’ notice that the MTA gave, nothing can be done.
“Millions of people are disadvantaged and inconvenienced,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “The people of Queens are being disrespected.”
Until March 25, the MTA will be working on tunnel, signal and track maintenance in the Steinway Tunnel, which connects Queens to Manhattan, and will replace tracks between the Court Square and Queensboro Plaza stations.
Van Bramer held a press conference on Friday, December 28, the day that marked the beginning of the closures, in front of the bustling Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue train stop. He was joined by fellow Councilmember Peter Koo and area business owners, all protesting the MTA changes.
“If I seem a little angry, I am,” said Van Bramer. “Year after year this is too much to bear.”
In 2010, the No. 7 line was suspended for 12 weekends, and again for five weekends this past fall.
On December 8, Community Board 2 received a letter from the MTA, detailing the weekend closures. According to Van Bramer, there was no discussion or opportunity for input, simply a: “this is how it is, so deal with it.”
Going forward, the councilmember intends to work with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the rest of the Council to urge the MTA to change course, and also advises that residents sign an online petition, on the City Council website, and also protest via social media.
For alternate service, straphangers can use the E, F, N and Q lines. On Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., the Q will be extended to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard. Additionally, free shuttle buses will operate between the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue and Queensboro Plaza stations during those weekends.
-With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola