LIC Slams Weekend Shutdowns
For as many as 22 weekends this year, the 7 line will be closed for repairs between Queens and Manhattan-a prospect that has politicians, community activists and business owners in western Queens infuriated with the MTA.
As announced by the MTA last Thursday, Jan. 16, the 7 line between Queensboro Plaza or 74th Street- Roosevelt Avenue and Times Square-42nd Street will be shutdown for at least 13 weekends between February and July. Another round of weekend service disruptions are tentatively scheduled for the remainder of 2014.
Reportedly, the closures are needed in order for the MTA to continue its multi-year, $550 million project to modernize equipment along the Flushing Line and repair damage inflicted by the floods of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The modernization work includes the installation of Communications- Based Train Control (CBTC), which-once installed-will reduce delays and allow for additional service on the line, according to the MTA.
All of the disruptions are weather permitting and will take place from 11:45 p.m. on a Friday night and continue until 5 a.m. the following Monday morning. The schedule is subject to change, the MTA noted.
The majority of the scheduled service disruptions will affect service between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square-42nd Street. The shutdowns will take place on Feb. 28-Mar. 3; Mar. 7-10; Mar. 14-17; Mar. 21-24; Mar. 28-31; Apr. 11-14; May 2-5; and May 30-June 2.
Shutdowns on this segment of the 7 line will be accompanied by reduced 7 train service between Queensboro Plaza and 74th Street- Broadway on the following weekends: June 6-8, June 20-23; June 27-30 and July 18-21.
Furthermore, 7 train service will be completely suspended between 74th Street-Broadway and Times Square-42nd Street on the weekend of May 16-19.
Outside of this schedule, the MTA plans to also suspend service on the 7 line for related repairs between Mets-Willets Point and Flushing- Main Street on two weekends next month: Feb. 15-18 and Feb. 22-24.
Commuters will have advanced notice of scheduled 7 train service disruptions through brochures and fliers posted at each subway station, announcements over public address systems and advertisements.
“We understand that these disruptions are inconvenient to the customers who depend on the 7 train and we appreciate their patience,” said MTA New York City 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.”
Nevertheless, the series of disruptions was blasted by City CouncilMember Jimmy Van Bramer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, State Sen. Michael Gianaris, City Council Members Daniel Dromm and Julissa Ferreras and local residents and merchants during a press conference in Long Island City last Friday, Jan. 17.
Cutting off a major rail link between western Queens and Manhattan will have a profoundly negative impact on residents, tourists and businesses on the eastern side of the East River, according to Van Bramer.
“We are sick and tired of the MTA shoving these disruptions down our throats and telling us they are good for us,” he said, adding that the number of weekend closures “is outrageous and will hurt hundreds of thousands of people and threatens to kill our small businesses.”
“Enough is enough,” he said. “We will not continue to allow the MTAto interrupt our way of life.”
Rather than having repeated closures, Van Bramer suggested the MTAinstead implement on the 7 line its “Fastrack” rapid repair and maintenance program. During Fastrack, tunnels and entire segments of subway lines are closed during consecutive hours on five consecutive weeknights to allow for work to take place.
Should the MTAmove ahead with weekend disruptions anyway, the legislator offered that the authority provide residents and visitors with a number of alternatives to get around western Queens. One idea is both increasing service on the N line as well as extending the M line, which usually runs as a weekend shuttle between Middle Village and Bushwick.
Van Bramer also called on the MTA to provide a special shuttle bus between Hunters Point and Grand Central Station and to subsidize weekend fares on the East River Ferry during each shutdown, enabling riders to pay $2.50 per trip-the same as a subway or bus ride-rather than the normal $4 ferry cost .
He also recommended that the MTA develop “an aggressive marketing campaign” to promote Long Island City businesses with advertisements in Manhattan.
“It is simply unacceptable for the MTA to shut down such a vital transportation link for 22 straight weekends,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The Number 7 line is one of the busiest lines in the city and its Flushing- Main Street station is the busiest subway stop in Queens. We should be talking about adding trains to the line, not about cutting service along it.”
Community activists and business leaders in the Long Island City also took the MTA to task for the scheduled shutdowns.
“We were promised by the MTA in 2011 the service disruptions that te community suffered through would not re-occur,” added Community Board 2 Chairperson Joseph Conley. “Now we are faced with more service disruptions that will result in a major negative impact for the residents, art institutions and businesses in Hunters Point. This is unacceptable.”
“These shut downs are by no means just a matter of inconvenience; they impact the operations and finances of our businesses, many of which operate outside the 9-5 weekday only envelope,” Long Island City Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said, noting the area’s restaurants, hotels and cultural institutions” depend on the 7 line for their stability and success.”
“Our thousands of local residents as well as visitors to our 22 hotels depend on this vital route not only to get in and out but also around the area,” Lusskin added. “Now more than ever, inner- and outerneighborhood transportation built around the 7 train is critically important.”