Redbird Flies Again, Carries Tourism Info
By Juliet Werner
Since coming to office, Borough President Helen Marshall has sought to make Borough Hall more user-friendly.
“We still have a lot of people ambling in the building,” spokesman Dan Andrews said. “Even when they’re in the lobby of Borough Hall, many times they can’t find where they have to go.”
Rather than increasing signage, Marshall opted for a new Queens Tourism Center, which opened Tuesday on Borough Hall’s East Lawn. The West Lawn would have been preferable, according to Andrews, owing to its higher visibility and proximity to public transportation. But the land was too steep for the Tourism Center’s unique venue: a former 7-train subway car.
The old 7 trains, also known as “Redbirds” for their red color, were retired in 2001. The majority were sent down south to be used in the Atlantic Ocean to help form barrier reefs. Marshall decided to rescue one of the 80,000 pound cars after reading several editorials published in the Tribune.
“The Queens Tribune really played a role in getting the ball started,” Andrews said, adding that the borough procured the car for free.
The Borough President’s Consulting Engineer Thomas Campagna traveled to the Bronx, selected Car 9075 and sent it to Transit Authority’s Coney Island yards where it was refurbished and repainted with the distinctive red paint, available only through the MTA.
Campagna renovated the 50-foot car, installing new heating, lighting, running water, an ADA ramp and a computer with internet access. Although the car was once sprayed with asbestos as a “sound deadening agent,” the chemical remains intact and harmless.
Queens resident Roxanne Solarsh will serve as the center’s director and oversee the dissemination of information. She said her neighbors don’t know what’s available, citing the Queens Museum of Art’s Panorama and Forest Park’s carousel as frequently overlooked.
“Unfortunately these institutions don’t have enough money
to advertise,” she said.
Solarsh added that some of Queens’ best tourist attractions are the views of Manhattan’s skyline from those subways still running on the tracks.
The Queens Tourism Center is located at 120-55 Queens Blvd. and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.