By Bill Parry
Passions ran high at a recent Long Island City rally.
Business owners and cultural directors joined elected officials and concerned citizens to voice displeasure with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plans to shut down the No .7 subway line for 22 weekends beginning Feb. 28.
Nearly 200 people attended the rally last Friday in front of Dorian Cafe, at 10-01 50th Ave., at the entrance to the Vernon-Jackson subway station.
Rebecca Trent, owner of The Creek and the Cave and founder of LIC Eateries, said, “I cannot run a consistently successful restaurant without consistent train service.”
The Creek and the Cave is also a comedy club that depends on the No. 7 to deliver customers on weekends.
“You can’t have art without an audience,” Trent said.
She choked back tears explaining how times are tough even without service suspensions, saying, “Things have been so bad I haven’t been able to pay myself since the holidays. I don’t know how I’m going to survive this, I do not know and neither do many of my neighbors.”
Richard Mazda, founder and director of The Secret Theatre, said, “If people cannot get here, they will not come here. It is as simple as that.”
Sheila Lewandowski, owner of The Chocolate Factory, agreed.
“It’s devastating to imagine how much this is going to cost us,” she said. “I’m particularly worried about the restaurants, though. A lot survive on parties and people will cancel the moment they hear of subway shutdowns.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who arranged for the rally, said “real people’s lives are affected in real ways here. This is not a game, this is about human beings. They are trying to survive and the MTA is trying to kill us.”
The MTA said the shutdowns are necessary infrastructure projects aimed at improving the No. 7 line, including an updated communication and signaling system, replacing critical track panels and reconstruction inside the Steinway Tube under the East River that was damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
“We understand that these service disruptions are inconvenient to the customers who depend on the 7 train and we appreciate their patience,” said MTA Transit President Carmen Bianco. “We have made every effort to schedule these projects simultaneously to get as much work done as we can during these periods.”
Elected officials were angered by the agency’s lack of communication prior to the announcement last week.
“The No. 7 runs through the heart of my district and I found out from a reporter,” Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “They did not go to officials, community boards, business owners. The MTA never talked to anyone, they just gave notice and that’s wrong,” Van Bramer said.
Borough President Melinda Katz found the lack of communication frustrating.
“Ultimately we’re trying to bring businesses to Queens, not drive them away,” she said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.