By Bill Parry
Disgruntled commuters, business owners and community leaders rallied, under the 40th Street station in Sunnyside Wednesday, to voice their concerns over frequent poor 7 train service. For much of the winter trains have been breaking down, bypassing No. 7 subway stations; signals and switches have malfunctioned; and overcrowded platforms continue to plague riders along the line.
“This is a nightmare that must end and it must end now,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “We are trapped in a bad dream that never seems to end. Riders are paying for a service that is poor, inconsistent and just plain late. I call on the MTA to publicly release detailed information about every service disruption over the last year during the rush hours and answer to Queens riders. Rush hour service has gotten worse. The MTA admits it. Now we want to know why.”
Straphangers were asked to share their nightmares.
“On the first bitter cold morning of the season, I waited over 45 minutes as ten trains came through the station, too packed for anyone else to board,” Sunnyside resident Tara Turtell said. “Unfortunately, that was just one of many times the 7 train made me excessively late for work.”
Joshua Plant of Sunnyside spoke about how he regularly waits more than 40 minutes on the freezing platform before he is able to squeeze on to a train.
“This is unacceptable, and more importantly, it’s unsafe,” he said. “At any moment any one of us could fall onto the tracks due to overcrowding because of service delays and interruptions. This is not merely an inconvenience as the MTA announcement so gently puts it; this is a matter of public safety.”
The poor service is affecting business in western Queens as well.
“Our local businesses depend on the 7 train to get their employees to work and customers to their stores,” Sunnyside Shines Executive Director Rachel Thieme said. “With frequent track work and increased service disruptions, our neighborhood is being shortchanged by the MTA. Sunnyside’s local businesses deserve better.”
An MTA spokesman said these concerns are why there is a multi-year, $550 million capital improvement project underway to replace the antiquated 50- to 90-year-old signaling system. The new system will allow more train to run per hour, reducing crowding and further accommodate the population growth in Queens.
The MTA is also replacing nearly 2,980 feet of old track and repairing the 120 year-old Steinway Tube under the East River that was heavily damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
The spokesman, Kevin Ortiz, took umbrage at Van Bramer’s request several weeks ago that the No. 7 run on March 1 so that more people could get to Sunnyside’s St. Pat’s for All Parade.
“I would like to add an important point,” Ortiz said. “The councilman can’t have it both ways by demanding that we cancel planned work and then complain that service is poor due to NYC Transit’s inability to get things done.”
Van Bramer thought that was ridiculous because his request was not granted. The No. 7 did not run during the parade, the MTA got to do the work and yet the service was still disrupted on several occasions during the last two weeks.
“Look, it’s not about me or Kevin Ortiz,” Van Bramer said. “It’s about the people of western Queens who need to get to work, who need to make a salary so they can raise their families and pay their rents or mortgages. They want me to keep my mouth shut and I’m not going to do it.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr