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Woodside businesses demand relief from MTA repairs

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Several dozen Woodside business owners and residents joined City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) outside Donovan’s Pub on Roosevelt Avenue last week and called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to stop holding the neighborhood hostage, as they put it, as the agency continues to work on the No. 7 subway line.

They said the state-run agency has closed Roosevelt Avenue from 57th Street to 61st Street and used it as a staging area with heavy cranes for 15 weekends, including the last five in a row, and will continue to do so through the middle of March, placing local businesses — like Donovan’s Pub — in a stranglehold.

“We demand better train service, but we are also here to demand that the MTA give back our streets, give us back our parking, and stop harming local businesses,” Van Bramer said. “The ongoing work on the 7 line has been a nightmare for the people of Woodside, Sunnyside, and Long Island City for years. We want the 7 train to be in good repair, but we also want the MTA to do their work in a way that doesn’t harm our local businesses.”

The MTA says the critical track replacement work is being done to maintain safety and improve reliability and service on the 7 line.

“We have been in constant contact with elected officials and the community board on this project, and we look forward to continuing that engagement,” MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein said. “The equipment is essential for critical state-of-good-repair work on the 7 line, and we simply must do maintenance to ensure safe, reliable service for Queens.”

Community Board 2 Chairwoman Denise Keehan-Smith, a Woodside resident, demanded action.

“This inefficiency is unacceptab­le,” she said, her voice rising in anger. “The MTA should be working with our local business owners with a plan that is actionable for everyone’s best interests.”

Jimmy Jacobson worked at Donovan’s for 22 years as a bus boy and later a bartender before buying the pub in 2013 with his friend Dan Connor, who ran events there, upon Joe Donovan’s retirement after 47 years. Jacobson said the MTA was killing business by leaving heavy equipment on Roosevelt Avenue for months at a time and taking away parking along the corridor even when work isn’t being performed.

“We demand some answers,” Jacobson said. “The MTA simply doesn’t care.”

The Rev. Kevin Abels, the pastor at St. Sebastian’s across 58th Street from Donovan’s, told of recent funeral masses for two community residents in which mourners were late and unable to find parking.

“People aren’t able to come out,” Abels said. “Our senior citizens that use Access-a-Ride aren’t able to come out to the church.”

Van Bramer urged the MTA to remove its equipment from the street when not in use and to find staging alternatives that cause fewer street closures and leave more parking available. He also urged the MTA to communicate with the community and business owners ahead of continued work so that interruptions can be better anticipated.

“These street closures and removal of dozens of parking spaces are preventing people from visiting local businesses, and I’m worried that if this continues, we may see some of these small businesses forced to close,” he said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by email at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Posted 12:00 am, February 1, 2018
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