Western Queens and Long Island City residents turned the heat on MTA officials as they voiced their discontent about the ongoing service disruptions of the No. 7 train, which has bypassed all the stops in their neighborhoods on consecutive weekends.
Residents said “enough is enough” to a six member panel of Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) executives at an emergency town hall meeting held on Wednesday, February 17, sponsored by Councilmember James Van Bramer.
At standing-room only town hall meeting held at Manducatis Rustica Restaurant on Vernon Boulevard, citizens complained of the inefficiency of notification, lack of community input, and the loud tunnel fans disturbing their neighborhoods.
“The No. 7 train is the lifeblood of Queens County, and it is an absolute outrage and disgrace that these people should, every single year, be asked to bear an undue burden,” said Van Bramer, joined by Assemblyman Mike Gianaris, Councilmember Dan Halloran, and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. “We have done our fair share and it’s time for the MTA to come up with real answers, real solutions and deliver for the people.”
Since January 29, the MTA has halted service on the No. 7 line between Queensboro Plaza and Grand Central Station on weekends, inconveniencing customers for an estimated nine straight weeks. However, according to Lois Tendler, the MTA’s Vice President of Government and Community Relations, shutdowns may end by Monday, March 8.
Disruptions have been caused by track configuration and several smaller jobs, including cable work and system upgrades. As an alternative, commuters have had to take shuttle buses to Queensboro Plaza and take the letter N or Q trains to Manhattan.
Enraged riders, however, complained of irregular bus schedules, especially during the inclement weather.
Van Bramer demanded the MTA provide a bus traveling directly from the Vernon Jackson Station to Grand Central, but the idea was deemed implausible. By the end of the meeting, officials acquiesced to increasing the frequency of buses.
“Without work on the railroad, the railroad won’t work for you,” said Tendler. “These are broad strokes, but we are committing to meaningful and appropriately timed community input and notification.”
A main topic of concern for irate residents was the roaring tunnel fans used for ventilation during work, keeping numerous people up in the middle of the night. Residents were not notified of their use and complained of lack of sleep. One woman was so distraught while voicing her experience that she burst into tears and left the town hall.
Tendler responded that a proposed sound attenuation package that would substantially reduce the noise of fans would carry an estimated $300,000 price tag, one the authority would not be able to afford.
Small businesses and cultural institutions say they have suffered greatly as a result of these service disruptions, cutting off the gateway to these neighborhood organizations.
“It’s just torture, every single winter I’ve been hit by the weather and then hit by the MTA.” said Richard Mazda, artistic director and founder of the Secret Theatre in Long Island City, a business based on weekend sales. “You’ve got to deal with L.I.C. or we’ll deal with you!”
In response to the community, the Hunters Point Merchant Association has put together a free shuttle service for residents, direct from Vernon Boulevard to Grand Central. Tickets can be printed at www.licityguide.com.