LIC Residents Protest 7 Line Disruption
By MEGAN MONTALVO
|Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer and Peter Koo joined residents of Long Island City to protest the MTA’s planned weekend closures of the 7 train.
When the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced plans to close the 7 train between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square-42 Street for 13 weekends in a row, a group of local residents said “enough is enough.”
On the corner of Vernon Boulevard and 50th Avenue in Long Island City, a host of community members banded together last week to rally against the MTA’s decision.
“The 7 train is the lifeblood of the Hunters Point, Long Island City community,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who organized the protest. “Cutting off service for such a long period of time while this community is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy is a travesty and shows the MTA’s disregard for this, the fastest growing community in New York City.”
Beginning this weekend, the 7 line service disruption will continue every weekend until March 25.
Although MTA officials say that service diversion is necessary to replace tracks on the elevated portion of the line between the Court Square and Queensboro Plaza stations, many small business owners feel not enough input was taken into consideration.
“If The Chocolate Factory and other cultural venues are to survive in LIC and hopefully thrive, we need a consistent public transportation system,” said Sheila Lewandowski, who owns The Chocolate Factory Theater on 49th Street. “Our audience, artists and supporters come from Queens but also from all over the world. They are our audience, but we are a part of the MTA’s audience. I would never ‘plan’ to cancel a performance without or with little notification. That would be a sign of disrespect for our audience.”
In addition to suffering a loss of business due to a similar 12-weekend long service disruption last year, Lewandowski said that residents living in the neighborhood have a particularly difficult time transferring to and from Manhattan.
“We have the G train stop nearby, but everyone here calls that the Ghost train because you never see it,” she said.
To attract clientele during the shutdown, Lewandowski said the Theater will be looking into providing special discounts on tickets.
“Last year, we offered our customers a discount with the promo code ‘MTA Sucks,’” she said. “It not only made us feel better, but also helped attract more customers.”
While the group of protestors was primarily comprised of LIC residents, Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who was also in attendance, voiced concerns over the affect the disruption may have on the Asian community in Flushing as they make plans for the Lunar New Year Festival.
“The MTA continuously shows a blatant disregard for its customers by raising fares and diminishing service,” Koo said. “The Flushing community is outraged at the MTA that they would disrupt 7 Train service during the Lunar New Year after promising last year they would be more sympathetic.”
Despite admitting to a high turnout at the 2012 Lunar New Year Festival, Koo said that he worries about senior citizens who may be finding it difficult to travel in and around the neighborhood.
Though a date has yet to be set for the 2013 festival, Lunar New Year is expected to commence on Feb. 10.
“We demand more input, more real problem solving from the MTA, and more respect,” Van Bramer said. “The cultural organizations, businesses and people of Long Island City deserve better. Queens deserves better.”
According to both Koo and Van Bramer, better alternatives to the 13-week disruption would include a Fastrak program, which would shut down stations overnight, or scheduling the work during the summer or on weekdays so that it would not impact tourism, which is typically boosted on weekends.
However, MTA officials say that due to the amount of work being done, the alternative options would not be viable.
As part of the protest, Van Bramer has set up an online petition, which urges the MTA to stop the service disruption via www.council.nyc.gov/html/action_center/7train.shtml.
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.