The MTA’s decision to shut down No. 7 train service from Manhattan to Queens for nine consecutive weekends could devastate already struggling businesses and force residents into long commutes, City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) said during a Sunday news conference at the Vernon Jackson subway station in Long Island City.
“The 7 train is a lifeline in Queens,” Gioia said. “Cutting off Queens residents in the dead of winter from the rest of the city is simply a bad idea. In tough economic times, the MTA is actually making things worse. Queens’ businesses and many attractions will suffer because people will simply not be able to get to them. MTA is telling residents of Queens, ‘You’re on your own this winter.’ ”
Gioia, business owners and Queens residents rallied Sunday against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s move to cease weekend 7 train service between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza over the next two months due to construction. The councilman has called for the MTA to provide a bus service from Grand Central Station to the shuttered stops in Queens.
John Hoban, the 7 line’s deputy general manager, said the bus service is not feasible because it would be too expensive.
For Sheila Lewandowski, a Long Island City resident and the executive director of The Chocolate Factory, a theater on 49th Avenue, the stop in service could mean drastic downturns in ticket sales for her organization, which launches its new season next week.
“Most of our audience is not local,” Lewandowski said. “In this economy, when art budgets are being cut, we rely more and more on our ticket sales.”
Lewandowski found out New Year’s Day that the 7 trains would not be running on weekends, and she said the move has her bracing for some hard times ahead. Should the lack of trains deter Manhattan and Brooklyn residents from venturing to Queens, she said the theater may have to look into cutting programs to save money.
Joan Dunne, a real estate agent at Prudential Douglas Elliman, said shutting down the 7 train could make her job more difficult than it already is in a tanking economy.
“The selling feature for Long Island City is it’s one stop, or four minutes, to Grand Central,” Dunne said. “Now you’d have to take a taxi, which would cost you $30, or you’d have to take the E. The 7 is much more convenient.”
Gioia said that a four-minute commute could now take residents up to an hour because they would need to take a bus to Queensboro Plaza, where they could catch the N train to and from Manhattan.
Gioia and residents complained the MTA had not given sufficient warning about the stop in service. Jimmy Van Bramer, a Sunnyside resident, said Community Board 2, of which he is a member, had received no information about the 7 train in previous weeks or months.
Hoban said he had seen notices from the MTA going out to community boards months ago.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2009 Community News Group
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