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No. 7 service cut on Lunar Parade

Dragon dancers delight throngs of onlookers during last year's Lunar New Year Parade, who made the trip to Flushing despite a disruption in No. 7 train service.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The city will yet again shut down portions of the No. 7 train during Flushing’s Lunar New Year celebrations even as organizers take new steps to expand the event and deliver an even greater economic boost to the neighborhood.

A spokesman from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority confirmed that the agency will be performing signal work that will shut down a portion of the line during the festivities in February.

Last week an MTA representative told parade organizers and community leaders that the agency’s hands are largely tied when it comes to the winter signal work.

“It’s not aimed at any one community,” an MTA representative said at a Community Board 7 district service cabinet meeting. “We are extremely limited when we can do it.”

Lunar New Year typically takes place in January or February and is the mother of all holidays in East Asian countries like China and Korea, where the public transportation is packed to the brim as commuters return to hometowns and visit relatives for at least part of the 15-day celebration.

In Flushing, it is considered a time to embrace Chinese and Korean cultural performances, to watch the parade and in the process to patronize many of the neighborhood’s local businesses.

The MTA contends performing the signal upgrades in the winter months, when ridership is lowest on the No. 7 train, affects the least amount of people.

For many transit lines, the winter is busier than the summer months, when many New Yorkers take off on vacation. But the No. 7 train is different, since it serves as a main form of transportation for baseball fans traveling to Citi Field to catch a New York Mets home game or those attending the annual US Open at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

In 2008, the city bent to the demands of the community and canceled track work on the weekend of the parade.

But last year the MTA would not delay track work by one weekend and shut down the portion of the line between Manhattan and Long Island City just two days before the festivities, kicking off a schedule in which work on the tracks continued for the next 11 weekends.

Hundreds of thousands of people flood the streets of Flushing each year for the Lunar New Year parade, according to Peter Tu, of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, who spoke at last week’s meeting.

This year, organizers will split the celebrations into two weekends, with a day of Chinese cultural performances scheduled for Feb. 10 and the parade down the streets of downtown slated for the following Saturday.

Tu and the rest of the organizers have gone to great pains to make the parade more inclusive, hosting meetings in multiple languages in order to encourage groups from outside Flushing and the Chinese and Korean communities to participate.

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) plans on writing the MTA a letter along with other area lawmakers requesting that No. 7 line service be kept intact.

“With the negative effects Hurricane Sandy has had on our transit system and our businesses here in New York, we must diligently try to bounce back,” she said in a statement.

“We recognize that the MTA has a lot of work to do, but we must ensure that transit repairs do not have a negative effect on this year’s Lunar New Year celebration.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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