Today’s news:

7 line service problems sever ‘vital lifeline’ to boro

Standing at the foot of the 52nd Street stop in Woodside, City Councilmen Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and John Liu (D-Flushing) said portions of the No. 7 line had been knocked out of commission at least 13 times over the past year for maintenance jobs that took too long and were poorly explained to transit users."We've already seen persistent delays and frequent shutdowns are cutting Queens residents off from a vital lifeline," said Gioia, who said the service cuts were also hurting businesses by keeping customers away."The 7 trains have had three weeks of constant problems without communication to its passengers during this very cold month on an exposed platform," said Laura Brown, who lives in Sunnyside and owns a business in Manhattan. "Why were these changes not made in the warmer months?"The councilman called on the MTA to provide shuttle bus service to passengers affected by the cuts and chided the MTA for not doing enough to help riders. "They've grown into an unaccountable bureaucracy that is dramatically underserving the public," he said. Charles Seaton, a spokesman for the New York City Transit division of the MTA, said the agency has been performing routine maintenance along portions of the line for more than a year, replacing tracks and switches."This is necessary maintenance," Seaton said. "We know it's inconvenient, but we try to inconvenience the fewest number of people as possible by doing the work on nights and weekends so we do have the service available during the weekdays."But Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the Queens Museum of Art, said that's little consolation to the more than 100 would-be patrons who were thwarted in their attempts to get to Flushing Meadows Corona park for the opening of a major exhibit last weekend."This is terrible. We had staff members who didn't know how to get to the museum," Finkelpearl said. "It seems like every big event we have, the 7 train isn't running."Praising a state legislative package that would create an oversight board for the MTA's New York operations, Liu said the agency was taking too long to complete repairs."We did this last year and we said the MTA needs to get its act together," said Liu, who chairs the Council's Transportation Committee. "Get this damn line fixed already."Seaton, the MTA spokesman, said shutdowns are spread out to avoid knocking out service to the entire line that Gioia said has more than 500,000 riders a day. He said it was unclear when workwould be finished.Seaton said the authority posts service advisories in subway cars at stations and on its Web site. And he said passengers normally can transfer to other Manhattan-bound trains at stations such as the 74th Street Station and Queens Plaza.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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