No. 7 line short for Lunar New Year 1

State Sen. Toby Stavisky, left, Councilman Peter Koo and Flushing Business Improvement District Executive Director Dian Yu joined local small business owners and elected officials in demanding the 7 train run during Flushing’s Lunar New Year celebration.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to cut service along portions of the No. 7 line during Flushing’s annual Lunar New Year celebration, leaving local businesses and elected officials promising to fight for full service the weekends of Feb. 10 and 16.

The MTA plans to shut down the 7 during selected weekends for ongoing signal upgrades along the line’s Steinway tunnel, only running the train from Main Street to Queensboro Plaza from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday to 5 a.m. on Monday.

The MTA said the new signal system will increase the reliability, speed and safety of the line. It expects the work to be completed by 2016. The upgrade will occur virtually every non-holiday weekend this winter, with exceptions for Christmas and New Year’s.

Flushing’s business community is contending the annual Lunar New Year parade should also be included in the roster of days when work is suspended, citing economic impact and cultural insensitivity.

“Train service is a customer-oriented business. How can they resist serving their customers on the two days they want service most,” said Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) at a press conference held on Tuesday by the Flushing Business Improvement District and the Flushing LaGuardia Sheraton Hotel.

The MTA contends it is picking a downtime in the 7 line’s otherwise busy year.

“Because we have such a limited opportunity to perform Flushing line work during baseball season, these general orders for work must move forward during the remainder of the year,” said Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the agency.

The speakers, an amalgam of elected officials and the heads of small business associations, aired exasperation over fighting this battle again for what was the third year in a row.

The situation incited the ire of the admittedly placid state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), who was visibly annoyed after receiving what she labeled an “unsatisfactory” response from the MTA regarding its plans.

“I’m not big on demonstrations; I usually like to work quietly,” she said. “But this is different. I may have to make an exception.”

Merchants associations were also left wondering if the city was spitting in the face of a community they said has remained solvent and booming during a time of otherwise fiscal uncertainty.

“Every year it’s the same thing, again and again and again,” said Fred Fu, president of the Flushing Development Center and owner of Flushing Travel.

The sting of truncated service is particularly tough on the Flushing Chinese Business Association’s Peter Tu, who organizes the parade and has gone through pains to make the event be more inclusive of non-Asian demographics.

“The parade does not belong to Asians; it belongs to the community,” he said.

The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in many East Asian cultures, a relatively tame bacchanal that in Flushing includes cultural events and a parade. Organizers said the neighborhood enjoys a flood of visitors, reaching out to family and coming to celebrate in an Asian hub on the east coast.

“All you have to do is walk around Flushing and look at the license plates,” Stavisky said. “They’re from all over the east coast.”

Community Board 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman said the MTA’s plans would be different, had it been a western holiday.

“This holiday would be the same as working on Christmas or New Year’s,” she said.

Letter writing has so far left business owners and local electeds unhappy with the response. Koo said he is willing to go a step further.

“If there is a need to, we have to demonstrate in front of the MTA office,” he said. “If they don’t listen, we will have revenge.”

(1) comment

Fan Railer

Despite being Chinese myself and sympathizing with the business owners, I have to argue the contrary on this one. The locality is blowing the issue way out of proportion. The N train, and the Q train in the cases of this type of GO, as mentioned before, offers CROSS PLATFORM transfers at QB Plaza (where the 7 is truncated when work is being performed in the Steinway Tubes), mind you (God forbid that it wasn't built that way and people actually had to walk up and down stair; OH NO!), and goes not only to the 's terminus at Times Square, but continues on to Canal street, which most of us would know that Manhattan's Chinatown is located. In all due honesty, I would bet a sum of money that a good portion of people traveling to Flushing that weekend will be coming from that part of town, or even from Brooklyn's Chinatown, located around the 8th street station, which is ALSO serviced by the . And if they are not coming from either of those two locations, then they'll be transferring anyway.

In addition, if you don't like the subway, there's a complimentary shuttle bus that travels between the Flushing LIRR station and Manhattan Chinatown, near Confucius Plaza (Tower). But if that doesn't work for you, then there are buses, and cabs, and if all else fails, drive somewhere; either straight into Flushing, or to points outside of Flushing, and take mass transit in. The point is, there really is no point to the arguments being lobbied here by the community, as there are numerous alternative ways to patronize this sector of the city that weekend. It simply demonstrates ignorance and laziness by certain parties involved.

With progress comes sacrifice and patience. If you want improvements, then don't complain. The work that the MTA is doing to automate the 7 Train will, in the long term, make service more reliable and faster, ensuring that people have an even easier time getting themselves up to Flushing for future Lunar New Years to come.

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