Op-ed: No. 7 Train closures can’t close Long Island City


Each year the residents of western Queens, and Long Island City in particular, wonder anxiously how many weekends the MTA will shut down the No. 7 train. In past years, the MTA did not even provide advance warning, adding insult to injury. All the prior notice in the world, however, cannot ease the pain of the 22 weekend closures we face in 2014.

Western Queens is home to the fastest-growing, most exciting neighborhoods in the five boroughs, and Long Island City continues to set the pace. People from all over flock here to live and raise their families, visit our wonderful cultural attractions, sample our world-class restaurants and enjoy our beautiful green spaces. Long Island City, and all of western Queens, deserves increased mass transit options, not ones that are being slashed.

Unfortunately, the MTA is stuck in the past, believing its mission does not extend beyond getting people to and from Manhattan during the work week. It is past time for the MTA to realize that neighborhoods like LIC have become destinations in their own right, drawing people from all over the city, particularly on weekends.

As your State Senator, I repeatedly fight the MTA to soften the blow of its seemingly endless train closures. In the past, the MTA has all but ignored the voices of our community, so it was a small step in the right direction when this year, MTA representatives took time to meet with me, my fellow elected officials and community leaders to discuss ways to mitigate the impact of these incessant closures. The MTA has committed to producing a marketing campaign, advertising all LIC has to offer, and I am working with my colleagues to bring the MTA to a public meeting to give LIC residents the opportunity to explain how much closing the No. 7 train hurts their small businesses and quality of life.

Meetings alone, however, are nowhere near enough to help our neighborhood deal with this problem; not when small business owners worry that they will not survive 2014 because the No. 7 train is closed for 22 weekends this year. The MTA must provide direct shuttle bus service from LIC to Manhattan through the Queens Midtown Tunnel, an idea it  has repeatedly ignored. The MTA must also reduce the overall amount of closures. It must provide the increased and more efficient service Long Island City and all the growing neighborhoods of western Queens deserve, and I will continue to hold the MTA’s feet to the fire until it does right by our community.

As we continue to rally together and fight the MTA for better service, be sure to tell everyone you know that Long Island City is still home to some of the most beautiful parks, delicious restaurants and creative cultural institutions in all of New York. No matter the No. 7 train schedule, Long Island City is open for business.

Senator Michael Gianaris was elected to the State Senate in 2010 with more than 81 percent  of the vote after a decade of dedicated public service in the State Assembly.