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"This is a very complex project which required a lot of advance planning and cooperation between several departments," said Steven Feil, senior vice president for the Department of Subways at NYC Transit. "It's a team effort with one goal - to improve the service we provide our customers." Track work to modernize the busy subway's signal system has led to the complete shutdown of No. 7 train service between Flushing Main Street and 61st Street in Woodside for the last two weekends. The temporary shutdown has created havoc in downtown Flushing, where thousands of travelers depend on the transit line to get to and from the bustling downtown area.City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), state Assemblywoman Ellen Young (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) blasted the MTA for its poor planning of the track work last week after the first weekend of the shutdown led to widespread confusion and traffic gridlock in downtown Flushing. In an attempt to remedy the loss of subway service, the MTA added dozens of free shuttle buses from Flushing to Woodside and also offered free Long Island Rail Road service from Flushing to Manhattan. Liu said the result was "chaos" as the additional buses clogged already busy streets in the neighborhood.The MTA and NYC Transit said that barring any inclement weather in the coming days, weekend service will resume by the first weekend of February. If this occurs, it will likely be music to the ears of Flushing's businesses preparing for the Lunar New Year celebration, which brings thousands of people to the area every February. Stavisky said the result of any reduction of transit service during this time would be severe. "The Asian Lunar New Year, where people from around the region visit and shop in Flushing, provides the biggest boost to local businesses during the year and any major transportation disruption will have major consequences for downtown stores," Stavisky said. "As the fourth largest commercial district in our city, the economic impact will be felt by local businesses as well as the entire city through lost tax revenues."Feil is optimistic and said track work last weekend finished ahead of schedule, allowing service to resume a few hours earlier than originally scheduled on Sunday night. "Our Track Department has performed above and beyond our expectations despite last weekend's threat of inclement weather and this weekend's bitter cold," Feil said. The Lunar New Year celebration is scheduled for Feb. 9 this year in Flushing, but Young said preparations for several families would probably begin the weekend before. Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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