City Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Peter Koo (D-Flushing) slammed the MTA at a news conference in Long Island City for its decision to close the No. 7 subway line in Long Island City for the next 12 weekends.
“If I seem a little angry, I am,” Van Bramer said. “This is an outrage that they do this every single time.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to shut down the line beginning at 11:45 p.m. Fridays to 5 a.m. Mondays through March 25. The closures are to continue the MTA’s work on a new signal system line for the No. 7 that is known as Communications Based Train Control.
“It will improve reliability, increase safety and decrease maintenance,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, “and, most importantly, allow us to run more trains.”
Ortiz said the MTA would still serve the Long Island City community during the outages. He said a shuttle bus will be running between Queensborough Plaza and the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue stop, while the Q train to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard will be extended on weekends during that time.
“This is unfortunate political grandstanding,” Ortiz said of the objections.
The councilmen held the news conference at the intersection of 50th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard, near the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue stop, with several Long Island City business leaders and artists.
Van Bramer said while the ridership may be lower, shutting off the No. 7 line will still have a detrimental impact on small businesses and cultural institutions. It will also make transport more difficult for residents headed to the St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside or the Lunar New Year festivities in Flushing.
“To cut down service during that time is especially hurtful to immigrants,” Koo said.
This is not the first time the MTA has shut down weekend service in Long Island City to do work. Since 2008, the authority has closed down a portion of the tracks for maintenance, only suspending their work during the Lunar New Year Parade the first year.
Last year the No. 7 line was closed for 12 weekends and coupled with the full-time closure for many months of the No. 7 line section of the Court Square stop.
The elected officials said the MTA should meet with the community and consider alternatives such as alternating the weekends of the closures, FastTracking the work or doing the work in the summer.
“[Residents] don’t want to walk several blocks in the ice and snow to an E train that also may not be running,” said Richard Mazda, founder of the LIC Arts Open and The Secret Theatre.
Ortiz said the ridership is greater in the summer and would affect more residents. For the work to be completed by FastTrack, the No. 7 line would be shut down in the evenings for about two months.
“That obviously is not a viable alternative,” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2013 Community News Group
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