LIC biz owners brace for No. 7 shutdowns
By Bill Parry

With just two weeks to go before the MTA begins suspending weekend service on the western portion of the No. 7 subway line for signal upgrades and tunnel repair, anxiety levels are rising among business owners in Long Island City.

“People know they are going to lose their jobs and livelihoods during the shutdown and some restaurants will close for good,” The Creek and the Cave owner Rebecca Trent said. “I know it’s going to kill me, 70-80 percent of my business comes off that subway.”

A closed door meeting in Manhattan between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and elected officials from western Queens Feb. 6 did little to calm the tension.

“The truth is on all of the important matters they simply said no,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “They said no to a shuttle bus from LIC to Grand Central Station, saying the buses don’t turn. That doesn’t seem to make sense. They said the shuttle to Queensboro Plaza takes the same amount of time. My constituents don’t believe that’s true.”

The MTA pledged to meet with residents in the near future and said it would develop a marketing campaign to help the business community in Long Island City.

“We would be willing to provide a robust campaign with station posters and brochures saying, ‘Long Island City is open for business,’” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. “We’ll also promote them with our digital On-the-Go kiosks, we’ll even put the message on two-sided MetroCards.”

The electeds left the meeting unimpressed.

“If they want to promote business, that’s fine, but marketing costs money. If they’re able to find money for that, why not a shuttle?” Van Bramer said.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) also took part in the meeting with the MTA.

“The important issues, like a shuttle through the tunnel and subsidizing extended ferry service, fell on deaf ears,” he said. “They’re the only ones that think a marketing campaign will make anyone happy.”

The Creek and the Cave, at 10-93 Jackson Ave., is a bar and restaurant but also a comedy club, which poses a unique problem for Trent.

“I put on 150 shows a month and 90 percent of the comedians use the subway from Manhattan. Many of them are canceling their dates ahead of the shutdown,” she said.

Trent was one of several business owners who were denied entry into the meeting with the MTA. They stayed outside the Midtown office handing out fliers that listed some of the grievances from business owners and residents.

One owner named Katinka said “38 percent of our business happens on weekends. When clients come from other neighborhoods, they also frequent other small businesses in LIC. Any loss of customers has a compounding effect on the health of our neighborhood’s small businesses.”

A retired homeowner named Nina said, “As a person with a breathing problem, I cannot climb the staircases necessary to get to the trains in Queensboro Plaza.”

Dr. Moitri Savard, a physician, home and business owner and a member of Community Board 2, added, “The neighborhood does not have local access to urgent and emergency health care. Cutting off the neighborhood on weekends is bad for our health and for our businesses.”

Trent, also the founder of the restaurant association LIC Eateries, summed up the feeling in the community in saying, “We’ve been hooting and hollering for four years now and every year the MTA says it’s just some crazy person complaining. It’s not a crazy person, it’s an entire community that is worried about its future.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718.260.4538.

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