By Bill Parry
The organizers of two major Long Island City springtime events were relieved and grateful that the MTA reworked its plans to provide weekend service on the No. 7 subway line during the weekend of May 17-18.
The decision was made three weeks after Metropolitan Transportation Authority President Carmen Bianco and his senior staff took part in a town hall meeting with residents and business owners that have been affected by the service disruptions.
During the meeting’s public forum, Elizabeth Lusskin, president of LIC Partnership, explained that the first Vernon Boulevard street fair, LIC Springs!, on May 17 was designed to go hand-in-hand with the 4th annual LIC Arts Open to draw as many people to the neighborhood as possible.
“It’s one weekend, one day when Long Island City is all coming together,” she said. “The loss of the 7 train from Times Square all the way to Jackson Heights means we can’t get people in from Manhattan or Queens and that’s a body blow.”
Richard Mazda, founder of LIC Arts Open, took a different tact when it was his turn to speak.
“To be honest, at the town hall there was enough anger in the room,” he said. “I strategically posed the question about the date for the following year to make it easy for him to say yes. When the whole world zigs, it’s better to zag.”
There is no telling which approach worked best in this instance.
MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said, “Whether through town halls or our own public hearings, community input is always a vital part of our decision-making process. There are times when we can accommodate certain requests and other instances when we cannot.”
Lusskin and Mazda were thrilled with the decision.
“The MTA had to do a lot of work to make this possible, so we will make the most of the opportunity and make LIC Springs! really special and reach the widest audience possible.”
LIC Arts Open, already the borough’s largest arts festival, running from May 14-18, will be even bigger this year with 35 events in 53 venues, including the work of 250 artists.
The logistics of running such an event gave Mazda a greater appreciation of the MTA’s decision.
“My first thought was that I was amazed and then I sympathized with them because I know how complicated it was for them to do. A lot of work goes into the planning and scheduling,” he said.
Mazda added that it is important that the LIC Arts Open is experienced by as many people as possible.
“We need to showcase the LIC art community to the rest of the city and the world because ours is more established, accomplished and mature than any other art community in the city,” he said. “When I go to Williamsburg I can throw a rock in any direction and hit a 25-year-old hipster with a big beard claiming to be an artist. Here we accomplish art and we do it discreetly.”
The MTA also announced that a long-promised marketing campaign is up and running. Digital messaging and a Web presence is designed to help Long Island City’s cultural institutions, restaurants and small businesses draw visitors while service is suspended on the No. 7 during the weekends.
Mta.info now features an ad that says, “Long Island City, Queens — On the grid, Under the radar.” Pictures from The Chocolate Factory, The Noguchi Museum, Alobar restaurant and MoMA PS1 are shown with a tagline that says, “Experience New York City’s Best Kept Secret.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.