By Bill Parry
Straphangers on the No. 7 subway line will have to get used to full and partial service disruptions as the MTA prepares to shut down the western segment of the line for 22 weekends beginning Feb. 28.
The weekends are not consecutive but will be spread out all the way to the end of November. A tentative Metropolitan Transportation Authority schedule shows that service will be disrupted every weekend in March while it will affect only one weekend in April, the 11th to the 14th.
Service changes will be in effect from 11:45 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. the following Monday. The shutdowns mainly affect trains from Times Square-42nd Street to Queensboro Plaza, but in May the shutdown will extend to 74th Street-Broadway, having consequences throughout western Queens.
City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said “66 percent of the people in my district don’t own cars. I think maintenance is something you have to do, but they should be less disruptive.”
Borough President Melinda Katz was irritated with the MTA plans, saying “it’s ridiculous. The No. 7 is one of the most crowded. I’m meeting with them next week and I’m going to call upon them to reduce the disruptions, and I’m going to ask them to add more trains.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), whose district is most affected by the MTA’s plan, could not believe the numbers.
“Twenty-two weekends? That’s 40 percent of the weekends in 2014. That’s more than an inconvenience, it’s potentially devastating to small business,” he said.
Once again, the Hunters Point section of Long Island City will bear the brunt of the service cuts. Last year, weekend service cuts lasted every weekend for three months, causing a harsh economic impact for many businesses that were still recovering from flooding and lost business, thanks to Hurricane Sandy.
“It’s terrible, but it’s nothing new,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “What the MTA fails to realize is LIC is a cultural destination. The shutdown damages businesses, restaurants, museums and theaters.”
Jeff Blath, owner of the highly acclaimed Alobar restaurant in Long Island City, was angry when he heard the news.
“It’s quite clear that the MTA doesn’t care about small business here in Queens,” he said. “Every time the shutdown happens, I’m going to shout about it on social media and I bet every other owner will be doing the same thing.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.