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Queens commuters and business owners unhappy over shutdown of city’s mass transit during storm

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THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ERIC JANKIEWICZ

The city’s subways and buses are back on track after this week’s snowstorm, but frustration over the mass transit shutdown is lingering on like piles of dirty snow left over from the blizzard.

Many Queens residents are still furious over Gov. Cuomo’s  decision Monday to shut down the city’s subway and bus system for the first time ever for a snowstorm as a precaution against the possibility of having buses and trains loaded with passengers stuck in snow.

The storm was large and real as expected, but moved eastward, hitting Long Island a lot harder, Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed out. After suspending transit overnight, the MTA slowly resumed subway and bus service at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and was running on a Sunday schedule by noon, which is about 60 percent of weekday service.

“The last time the city was put on lockdown like that was during Sandy. And that made me think that this was going to be the blizzard of the century or something,” Elvir Beharous said. A resident of Bayside, Beharous commutes by bus from his neighborhood to Flushing during weekdays for work.

After announcing a state of emergency and travel ban on all state and local roads for 13 New York counties starting at 11 p.m. Monday for all non-emergency vehicles, Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted the ban in most of those counties, including all the five boroughs, as of 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

But Beharous couldn’t make it to work on Tuesday since buses were running erratically. As a wage worker he couldn’t afford to take the loss of a day’s work.

“So I just shoveled for people all day in Bayside to make up the money,” he said on Wednesday as he waited for the now-running Q12 to take him back home from work in Flushing.

Full MTA weekday service was back on Wednesday, allowing Beharous to go back to work, even if he did have a cold from being out all day in the snow on Tuesday.

Wing Hangsong, a GED-student, didn’t mind having the day off of school, but that evening he couldn’t go to his job as a bus boy at a restaurant in downtown Flushing with buses down.

“It was necessary to close down the roads, but they could’ve at least given us some kind of emergency service,” said Hangsong, who lives on the southern edge of Flushing near Kissena Park.

Commuters weren’t the only ones affected by the shutdown.

The storm, known as Juno, took a chunk out of businesses in the downtown Flushing area, according to Dian Yu, head of the area’s business improvement district.

“It definitely wasn’t business as usual on Tuesday,” he said. “There were less people shopping in the area and most businesses took a loss.”

Thankfully, Yu said, celebrations for the Chinese New Year are still going strong and he is confident that the next two weeks of increased holiday-related business will make up for the loss.

“In a way, we’re very  lucky that this happened now,” Yu said.

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