Pols, Businesses Decry 7 Line Service Changes
Fed up with yet another round of service disruptions on the 7 train line-this one lasting three months-City Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Peter Koo blasted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) at a Friday morning, Dec. 28, 2012 press conference.
Along with business owners and community leaders at one of the entrances to the Vernon Boulevard- Jackson Avenue stop, the lawmakers claimed the MTA reneged on a promise to notify the community in advance and coordinate with local businesses to blunt the impact of the service changes.
There will be no 7 line subway service between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza on weekends through Mar. 25, according to an MTA release.
(For more information, see the Transit column on Page 20.)
Shuttle buses will operate between the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue stations and Queensboro Plaza. Customers are being advised to find alternate routes to travel between boroughs.
“This is not just a Long Island City issue, this is a Queens issue,” said Van Bramer; “the people of Long Island City, the people of Queens are being disrespected.”
“It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time,” he continued. “It’s not that this community is complaining about track work because they don’t like to be inconvenienced. What we are all saying, though, is 13 weeks after 12 weeks after five weeks after eight weeks, after year, after year, after year is much too much to bear.”
The lawmaker pointed out that the disruption will run through the Lunar New Year on Feb. 10 as well at St. Patrick’s Day on Mar. 17, hurting businesses that rely on residents traveling to events along the subway line.
“This is not good planning,” he added. “This is not the kind of respect that we expect from the MTA.”
Van Bramer wondered aloud why the work cannot take place during the summer, blaming it on the agency’s reluctance to affect service during the U.S. Open and the New York Mets baseball season.
“The waitress at Manducatis Rustica is just as important as David Wright,” he stated. “The dancer at the Chocolate Factory is just as important as Serena Williams is to the U.S. Open.”
“The MTA, year after year, shows disregard for its customers,” said Koo, noting recent service cuts and the planned rise in fares and tolls.
He also noted that members of Flushing’s immigrant population will be hurt by the lack of service, especially during Lunar New Year.
Van Bramer would later note that he only received word of the service changes on Dec. 8. The lawmaker has held conversations with MTA officials since the notification, but he stated that they have been “equally inflexible verbally as they have been in writing.”
Sheila Lewandowski, a member of Community Board 2 who operates the Chocolate Factory theater in Long Island City, noted that if the MTA had given advance notice, they would have rescheduled some shows.
“If our audience can’t get here, what are we saying to our artists?” she told the crowd. “New York City is important because of the arts, because of small businesses. We have to support them.”
Lewandowski later told reporters that the theater experiences up to a 25-percent dropoff in attendance during service disruptions.
“The MTA seems to have a 20- year-old idea of what LIC represents,” said Richard Mazda, who runs the Secret Theatre in Long Island City.
He suggested that the MTA institute the Fastrack program, which closes train lines for consecutive nights during the week to accelerate repairs, as opposed to the “Chinese water torture” of weekend disruptions.
“In 2011, we instituted a plan of infrastructure maintenance in the Steinway Tunnel to improve 7 line service reliability. We also began installation of a new signal system known as CBTC-Communication Based Train Control. This automated train control system ensures the safe operation of trains using wireless data communication that will allow for increased capacity, more frequent service and the future installation of countdown clocks,” an MTA statement noted.
“To support this effort,” the agency noted, “fiber optic and computer equipment will be installed on the tracks along the entire line. This work requires service changes that will continue for several years. We realize this will be an inconvenience, but the work is necessary to modernize and improve the reliability of the 7 line.”