Town hall meeting set to bring together warring factions over 7 train shutdown

By Bill Parry

Officials from the MTA will finally meet with Long Island City residents and business owners to discuss the issues involved with the suspended weekend service on the No. 7 subway line, into and out of LIC, now entering its third weekend. Carmen Bianco, the president of MTA NYC Transit, is scheduled to take part along with elected officials this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at PS/IS 78Q, at 46-08 5th St.

The meeting is open to the public and Bianco will get a sense of the anger and resentment that has grown in recent weeks because the marketing campaign promised by the MTA to help boost the local businesses has so far failed to materialize.

Following the initial suspension on March 8, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said of the 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.”

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who was instrumental in organizing the Town Hall meeting, was the first to fire back on March 11. “Now is not the time for the sort of finger pointing that the MTA has chosen to engage in with the local community,” he wrote in a statement. “The Long Island City community is hurting as a result of the 22 weekends of closure on the 7 line. The least that the MTA could do is work actively with the community on the promises 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.”

Ortiz said last Friday that the two sides would talk before the end of the weekend.

On Tuesday, Rebecca Trent, the owner of the Creek and the Cave and founder of LIC Eateries, said, “I am unaware of any reaching out. We are continuing to hear back on specifics and they continue to vaguely answer questions and withhold pertinent paperwork, that is getting in the way of us proceeding. I understand that they recently said the ball was in our court. That is all well and good, but when the MTA tosses up the ball, they should tell us the rules of the game.”

Several elected officials joined the battle with a letter to the agency and a flurry of statements Thursday evening. State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said, “The MTA needs to respond to questions voiced by LIC residents and I will continue to hold its feet to the fire until more progress is made on this issue.”

Borough President Melinda Katz added that the advertising campaign was promised to compensate the residents and business owners for the inconvenience of the shutdown. “We have to make sure the MTA does what it takes to make sure this campaign is an effective one,” Katz said.

On Friday, Ortiz said, “This back and forth via press is counterproductive. We look forward to engaging residents at the town hall meeting on March 27 and, as the LIC contingent is fully aware, we are still committed to providing everything we promised at our February meeting.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718.260.4538.

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