Astoria straphangers want their W

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Western Queens residents and community leaders lined up outside Astoria’s 30th Avenue subway station Tuesday morning to protest the MTA’s decision to cut its W train service to the community.

A group of 20 people held signs reading “We won’t sit for this — Stand up to the MTA” and “Save Our Subway” as they rallied to save the W train, which runs from Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria to Manhattan’s Whitehall Street-South Ferry stop.

The protest took place on the eve of a hearing at the Sheraton LaGuardia Hotel in Flushing on proposed cuts to borough bus routes as well as subway cuts, including the W and M lines to Middle Village from Brooklyn via Manhattan, and student MetroCards as a method to make up for an MTA budgetary shortfall.

“We’re here today to call attention to the fact that Astoria needs more service, not cuts in service,” Vallone said at the rally, which was held at 30th Avenue and 31st Street underneath the elevated N and W lines. “This line is the only set of subway tracks in northwest Queens. The MTA has admitted there will be bigger crowds and slower service.”

The MTA voted to make the cuts Dec. 16.

“The MTA has had to make a number of very painful decisions regarding service cuts throughout the region to close a budget shortfall of $800 million,” MTA Spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “They affect all our agencies.”

Aravella Simotas, who is running for Michael Gianaris’ (D-Astoria) state Assembly seat this fall, said she has taken the W line into Manhattan for the past 15 years, first as a student and later for work.

“It’s the lifeblood of Astoria,” she said. “There are a lot of young professionals who use it. We need more service.”

Community leaders have said thousands of residents in the community use the train daily to get back and forth from Manhattan.

Riders will now be forced to ride the N train into the city and the Q train, which runs from 57th Street in Manhattan to Brooklyn, will eventually be extended into the neighborhood.

But Astoria residents will need to switch trains for rides to key stops in Manhattan, such as the World Train Center and City Hall, once the W train is eliminated.

“Parents shouldn’t have to make the choice between mass transit and education,” Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides said. “We can’t tell senior citizens that we want to give them the care they need, but drop them off in places that are not accessible.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 5:48 pm, October 10, 2011
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