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Queens Chronicle

No. 7 train closures irk Long Island City business owners

Small business owners and pols say 13 weekends is too many

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Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:36 am, Thu Jan 10, 2013.

Residents along the No. 7 line from Long Island City to Flushing are miffed about the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s plans to suspend portions of the train’s service for 13 consecutive weekends.

Here’s the plan: the train will close from 11:45 p.m. on Fridays until 5 a.m. Mondays from Queensboro Plaza to Times Square. The closures started last Friday and will go until March 25.

The mid-February closure will begin as usual on Friday, Feb. 15, and stretch until 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Shuttles will bring riders back and forth to Queensboro Plaza where they can transfer to other trains.

“We are sick and tired of not having the 7 train work,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “The people of Long Island City are being disrespected.”

The councilman was joined in the nearly freezing weather by Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), small business owners, representatives from art institutions and many LIC residents to voice their displeasure and ask for fewer closures and more consultation with the neighborhood.

Individuals can sign a digital petition on the City Council’s website asking the MTA to reduce the amount of closures.

LIC will be largely cut off by subway routes during these shut downs. The closest alternative is the G train on Jackson Avenue and 47th Road, which the Secret Theatre’s owner Richard Mazda called the “ghost train.”

Gianna Cerbone, owner of Manducatis Rustica, said the closures slam businesses that are already struggling during the slower winter months.

Chocolate Factory cofounder Sheila Lewandowski said the theater has four shows scheduled during the 13 weekends with about 5,000 attendees expected. “If the audiences can’t get here, what are we saying to our artists?” she asked.

“Three months ago we could have rescheduled,” she said noting the lack of communication between the MTA and the communities.

“The lack of consultation has been a year after year event,” Mazda said. “This is crazy.”

Community Board 2 received a letter from the MTA announcing the closures on Dec. 8.

“There was no discussion,” Van Bramer said. But MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the agency spoke with stake holders and community boards throughout the process.

Van Bramer also said the MTA chose to close the No. 7 in the winter instead of the summer as a sign of favoritism towards the U.S. Open and Mets games.

“The waitress at Manducatis Rustica is just as important as David Wright,” Van Bramer said. “The dancer at the Chocolate Factory is just as important as Serena Williams.”

Ortiz said the Mets games and tennis matches are a factor, but “this is not about favoring baseball or the U.S. Open. It’s about impacting the least amount of riders.”

“There are more riders during the summer,” he said.

Protesters also said the closures will prevent some New Yorkers from visiting Flushing for the Lunar New Year from Feb. 10 to 16.

“It’s like Christmas and Thanksgiving for Eastern cultures,” Koo said, adding more than 1,000 people come to Flushing for the annual parade.

“It’s critical to us that we have the train service,” he said.

The suspension will also disrupt St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Sunnyside, Van Bramer said.

The construction will upgrade signals along the line’s Steinway tunnel and adds automated train control systems. The work, slated to end in 2016, will increase reliability, speed and safety as well as allow the 7 to support more riders, Ortiz said.

In January 2012 the train closed for 11 weekends and for five weekends in October.

“Year after year, it’s much too much to bear,” Van Bramer said.

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