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7 train work could disrupt Lunar New Year travel: Liu

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Flushing residents, business owners and Lunar New Year revelers from around the city are having a case of deja vu as track work on the No. 7 subway line threatens to disrupt celebrations in the bustling downtown hub for the second straight year.

Flushing plays host to thousands of people from the city and beyond during its annual Lunar New Year event, set this year for Jan. 31. The holiday is also an important shopping season for Flushing business owners, as shoppers pile into the downtown area’s several Asian speciality stores to gather supplies for celebrations with family elsewhere.

But for the second consecutive year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is closing a large portion of the No. 7 subway line — the only subway line that reaches Flushing — to conduct track work.

For nine weekends through the beginning of March, the MTA said the subway line will be closed between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square as the transit agency completes signal work, offering shuttle bus service between the points.

“‘Happy New Year, your train is hereby out of service!’ is once again what the MTA is telling people who rely on the No. 7 subway,” said City Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing). “It is simply unacceptable for the MTA to keep shutting down vital subway lines without any accounting of the actual work being done. They always give the same reason — ‘signal and track work’ — a meaningless explanation which amounts to nothing more than a black hole of an excuse for mismanagement and incompeten­ce.”

The centerpiece for Flushing’s Lunar New Year celebration is the annual parade, when thousands of people line Main Street to take in an array of color and culture. This year’s parade is scheduled for Jan. 31 at 11 a.m., but parade organizer Fred Fu said he is not concerned just yet.

“Last year John Liu requested that the MTA suspend their work for the one day and they said yes,” Fu said. “This year it’s the same thing. If they could do it last year, I don’t know why they couldn’t do it this year. It’s just one day.”

During last year’s holiday season, the No. 7 line was shut down from Flushing−Main Street to 61st Street−Woodside for three weekends in January while the second phase of a $76 million capital project to revamp the subway’s infrastructure was completed.

In an attempt to remedy the loss of subway service, the MTA added dozens of free shuttle buses between the two stations 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.

This year Liu said more needs to be done to not only speed up work but also to prevent future service cuts.

“The MTA must immediately accelerate their work schedule to reduce the number of outages. They must immediately implement convenient bus service to replicate the subway line being shut down,” he said. “And they must provide a full report on the work that has actually been completed so that next year they don’t shut the train down with the same old excuses again.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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