Finger-pointing follows first weekend of No. 7 shutdown

By Bill Parry

Harsh words and bad feelings toward the MTA have begun anew following the first of 22 weekends of suspended service on the No. 7 subway line into and out of Long Island City.

In announcing the date of a town hall meeting March 27 but not the time or location, Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Kevin Ortiz provided an update on the marketing campaign that was promised to help boost the local businesses that would be affected by the service shutdown.

“Re the marketing campaign: The ball is in their court. We haven’t received any creative content from the LIC team yet and the deadline was last week,” Ortiz wrote.

Rebecca Trent, owner of the Creek and the Cave Restaurant and comedy club, at 10-93 Jackson Ave., and the founding member of the restaurant association LIC Eateries, was furious.

“We have met every deadline when the MTA gave us specs on what to send. The problem was that they usually gave us 36 to 48 hours’ notice to send images without answering our questions regarding use, duration of campaign and distribution. They also said they needed releases to accompany images, but no matter how many times we’ve asked for them, we still don’t have them,” she said.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) followed with a statement that said, “Now is not the time for finger-pointing that the MTA has chosen to engage in with the local community. The Long Island City community is hurting as a result of the 22 weekends of closures on the 7 line. The least that the MTA could do is work actively with the community on the promises that they have made.

“Instead, we have seen the MTA add insult to injury by suggesting that the slowness of implementation of a campaign is on someone other than themselves. This simple suggestion is shameful and arrogant.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said, “The MTA must stop treating our communities as if they don’t matter. This unresponsive bureaucracy will keep hearing from me until they get it, which they clearly do not at this time.”

Ortiz said the MTA and the LIC team would talk by the end of the weekend.

When the No. 7 service shut downs on weekends, trains stop running at 11:45 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza for 21 more weekends spread out until November. The MTA says it is upgrading signals, replacing track panels and making repairs inside the Steinway Tube tunnel under the East River.

The first weekend of suspended service March 7-10 affected businesses to varying degrees.

“This weekend stunk,” Tiny You, at 10-09 50th Ave., owner Jill Callan said. “I have a lot of customers that take the 7 here, shop and then walk home across the Pulaski Bridge, so this shutdown is worrisome to me.”

The high-end children’s boutique sits right above the Jackson Avenue subway entrance.

Gustavo Rodriguez, who books bands to perform at LIC Bar, at 45-58 Vernon Blvd., said, “I know it affects everyone on Vernon and Jackson. We create special events to bring people out and we’re fortunate because we still have the E and the G running.”

Last Saturday’s Lou Reed tribute brought a big crowd and Rodriguez is expecting a bigger crowd for this Saturday’s Van Morrison show as a tie-in with St. Patrick’s Day.

Meagan Kovatch, manager at Square Wines & Spirits, at 24-20 Jackson Ave., said, “MoMA PS1 had an opening for their art week this weekend, so that lessened the blow, but I’m worried about future weekends.”

One restaurant did better because of the suspended service, OpenDoor, at 10-09 Jackson Ave.

Owner Nick Guitart said, “We had our best weekend in six months.”

He explained that LIC residents don’t normally dine locally, preferring Manhattan restaurants near their workplaces.

“Some of the folks that never go out here had no choice but to try out the local restaurants because they couldn’t get to Manhattan,” he said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.