Tag Archives: State Senator Michael Gianaris

MTA to begin weekend bus trial expanding service along Vernon Boulevard


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

DSC_11092

Starting this weekend, residents and visitors will have better access to the western Queens waterfront.

The Q103 bus line, which connects Astoria and Long Island City via Vernon Boulevard, will offer service to riders on weekends, starting Sunday and operate later on weekday evenings, according to the MTA.

In April, the transit agency said the schedule update would serve as a trial program, and it would receive comments from the community at an MTA public hearing to be scheduled at a later date. After the public hearing, a decision will be made to keep the service or not. It has not been determined how long the trial program will run.

“This announcement is a milestone for all of us who fought for years to get proper bus service for the growing communities of Astoria and Long Island City,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who has been calling for the extra service on the bus line since 2011. “I am thrilled the MTA is finally realizing western Queens’ need for increased mass transit is real and pressing.”

Gianaris is also urging the MTA to make the Q103 expansion changes permanent.

The weekend service will run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and, in addition, the Q103 will also extend its weekday service hours until 9 p.m., instead of 7:30 p.m. The travel path and bus stops will not be affected, the MTA previously said.

“These enhancements were all a result of listening to our customers and keeping close watch on changing ridership trends,” said MTA NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco.

Local leaders and business owners see the need to expand the Q103’s service as crucial to the growing neighborhoods.

“It is a positive step in improving transportation options in our neighborhood,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “The Vernon Boulevard corridor has been one of the more under-served transit thoroughfares in western Queens. Increasing bus service would be a vital resource to commuters traveling to Manhattan and to residents connecting from Astoria to Long Island City.”

According to officials, the Q103 ridership has been increasing in the past years, rising from 558 riders per day in 2011 to about 790 in 2014.

The MTA has also announced that this Sunday the Q19 will extend its western last stop from Astoria Boulevard and 21st Street to the East River waterfront at 27th Avenue and 2nd Street.

The Q102 will then also remain on 30th Avenue between Crescent Street and 8th Street, according to the MTA, with the stops on Crescent Street, Newtown Avenue and Astoria Boulevard to be relocated to 30th Avenue. All bus stops along Astoria Boulevard will instead be served by the Q19.

For more information visit www.mta.info.

 

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State Senate passes Queens Library reform bill


| editorial@queenscourier.com


A bill to bring reform to the Queens Library has gotten the thumbs up from the state Senate and will now make its way to the governor’s office where it is expected to be signed into law, officials said.

The Senate voted Thursday on the bill which calls for a number of “best practice” reforms including creating an audit committee to oversee the Library’s accounting and financial reporting processes and its annual audits and establishing a labor relations committee to address labor issues.

“Once enacted, my bill will rein in the excesses revealed in recent reports and provide a long-term blueprint for an efficient, transparent and accountable library system of which every Queens resident can be proud,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who sponsored the bill.

The bill would also require executive staff of the Queens Library to file financial disclosure forms and be subject to limitations on any outside employment that could be a conflict of interest with their library responsibilities. The bill would also call for the Queens Library’s Board of Trustees to approve the hiring of key Queens Library staff.

“This bill has generated grave concerns and raised red flags with statewide and national groups. The American Library Association wrote that it would ‘threaten the ability for Queens Library to operate free of political influence, and will serve as a dangerous precedent for libraries and library boards around the nation,’” said Gabriel Taussig, chair of Queens Library’s Board of Trustees, who said he was not speaking on behalf of the rest of the board.

 

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Off-duty NYPD officer killed after car hits storefront near Queensboro Bridge


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Updated 4:30 p.m.

An off-duty NYPD office was killed when her car smashed into an exit ramp of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge before striking a storefront in an accident-prone area of Long Island City.

Elisa Toro, 36, 10-year NYPD veteran who was assigned to Manhattan’s 17th Precinct, was heading off the bridge’s exit ramp around 1:50 a.m. Tuesday when she struck a guardrail, followed by a cement barrier, said police. The car then flipped onto its passenger side, hitting a vacant storefront on Queens Plaza South at Crescent Street.

Toro, a Bronx resident, was pronounced dead at the scene.

No one else was injured in the accident, said police.

The investigation is ongoing.

Kristina Shrestha said she saw the smashed up car when she came into work Tuesday morning at Panini Tozt Cafe located at 25-02 Queens Plaza South next door to the accident site.

“It was two years ago that the same thing happened in the same spot,” said Shrestha, who works as a cashier at the cafe. “I don’t know what’s wrong with the road.”

Following Tuesday’s accident, State Senator Michael Gianaris is calling for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to make greater traffic safety efforts at Queens Plaza South.

Gianaris asked the DOT to improve traffic safety in the area and redesign the bridge’s exit ramp after a series of accidents in 2011. But a redesign of the exit ramp was “ignored” and only “additional signage and minimal barriers” were added, according to Gianaris. The barrier, which was destroyed in a 2011 crash was never replaced, he said, and could have protected the storefront in Tuesday’s accident.

“How many more people have to die before the DOT understands that the Queensboro Bridge exit ramp must be redesigned? The city has known that this area is in dire need of traffic safety improvements for years, and the DOT has simply not done enough. I renew my call for a complete redesign of the bridge off-ramp, and implore the city to take swift action before another tragedy occurs,” said Gianaris.

According to Seth Solomonow, DOT spokesperson, as of 2011, the ramp has been equipped with a large variety of traffic management devices, including three 20 mph word messages and “sharks teeth” markings on the roadway, 14 yellow and 12 white 36”-by-8” aluminum-backed reflectors, plus another 150 yellow and white prismatic reflectors on the bridge rail uprights, four sets of rumble strips to warn drivers that they are approaching a reduced speed zone and an electronic sign that displays the speed of passing motorists using radar technology.

Additional reporting by Angy Altamirano

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DOT begins process to bring Citi Bike to Astoria


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

Citi Bike is slowly pedaling its way into western Queens.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has begun the process of bringing the Citi Bike Share Program into Long Island City, Sunnyside and now Astoria, by getting community input from Community Boards (CB) 1 and 2.

On Tuesday, the DOT began the first step of a long planning process of bringing Citi Bike to Astoria by introducing the plan to residents and board members during CB 1’s monthly meeting. Officials said this is only the beginning of a process that will take months and various community feedback meetings.

In August, State Senator Michael Gianaris announced he was working with the DOT to include Astoria in the future plans, which initially only included Long Island City and Sunnyside as Queens Citi Bike locations.

“I think it’s a great program that would provide unique benefits to western Queens,” said Gianaris. “I’m anxious to see a good program to include Queens as opposed to just Manhattan and Brooklyn.”

Gianaris said his push for the Citi Bike in western Queens arose after receiving a lot of input from residents and businesses. He also said it would work better for this area because although there are mass transit options available, some residents live a distance away from train stations. People from outside the area would be able to get to local restaurants, museums and other western Queens attractions.

The DOT will now conduct public discussions, collecting resident feedback and suggesting possible station locations in Astoria.

The senator said the only big community concern is fear that the DOT could remove parking spaces when they install the Citi Bike stations.

“We have to do the work to get it done now,” said Gianaris.

After the planning process is completed, the DOT will then have to find the funding for the stations.

The DOT has completed the planning process and station location selection with CB 2 for the neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Long Island City. Working together with the community, 11 locations have been selected and the DOT is waiting for resources to become available to install those stations.

The 11 locations are either in no-parking areas, sidewalks, public parks and plazas, or private property. A map of the planned stations can be found at http://a841-tfpweb.nyc.gov/bikeshare/station-map.

Long Island City was supposed to be part of the Citi Bike’s initial phase, which debuted in May, but was pushed back after equipment damages from Superstorm Sandy caused a delay.

 

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Astoria welcomes affordable senior housing


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Some Astoria seniors now have a safe, comfortable and affordable place to call home.

City and state Housing representatives and local elected officials gathered with the community on November 15 for the grand opening of the affordable Hellenic-American Neighborhood Action Committee (HANAC) – Presbyterian Church of Astoria (PCA) Senior Residence, located at 31-34 33rd Street.

The six-story, $24 million project was built on the site of the former Presbyterian Church of Astoria, which had reached out to the nonprofit HANAC organization and Enterprise Community Partners after facing financial difficulties.

“HANAC-PCA Senior Residence is a critical example of how underutilized, faith-based sites can be used to create new housing in a city where land is scarce and the need for affordable housing is great,” said John Kaiteri, HANAC executive director and CEO.

Since last October, 90 tenants have moved into the affordable housing development, which targets low-income seniors. The building includes 56 one-bedroom units, nine studio apartments and a superintendent’s unit. The development also includes a community room with a full kitchen, vegetable garden, bocce ball court, social service offices, an on-site service coordinator and large balconies, where seniors can step out and lounge.

The building was designed to meet all guidelines for people with disabilities. Since the facility worked with green design partners, it includes a high efficiency heating system, water conserving fixtures and landscaped gardens with native trees and plants that minimize water usage. Residents’ exclusive use of Energy Star label appliances will decrease energy use by 20 percent.

Tenants and visitors can also enjoy a small exhibit in the main lobby that features items dating back to the 1920s, photos of the church and pieces of the altar.

“HANAC has a long history of serving those in need in our community, and this public dedication continues that tradition by expanding quality, affordable housing for seniors,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris.

The development was primarily funded through the city, state and Borough President Helen Marshall.

 

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Pol introduces bill to keep Astoria clean


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Assemblymember Aravella Simotas

Residents and local officials want to take out the trash in Astoria.

“We all want a clean living environment for our growing community and to help our small businesses thrive,” said Assemblymember Aravella Simotas at a rally on September 24 at the corner of 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard.

Her office has heard from an increasing number of residents in the recent months about how dirty the streets have become, she said.

“Working together and with the support of our friends and neighbors, I am confident we can keep Astoria beautiful,” she said.

In order to bring some ease to the problem of overflowing trash cans and large amounts of litter on the streets, Simotas will introduce a bill in the state legislature that will offer tax incentives to carting garbage removal companies who can work together with local business and business improvement districts in order to keep the neighborhood clean.

“It is an outrage that the streets of Astoria and the outer boroughs have been trashed by the city,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who has worked on the problem in the City Council. “While the population has increased, trash can pickups have decreased, which has resulted in overflowing cans and garbage on our streets. The city needs to immediately return to two pickups per week.”

Along with Vallone, Simotas will also receive support from State Senator Michael Gianaris who will lead the push for the bill in the State Senate.

“I have lived in western Queens my entire life and I have always taken pride in the beauty of our neighborhood,” said Gianaris. “As our community continues to grow it is vital that we preserve our quality of life, and the Astoria I know and love does not have streets covered with litter and overflowing garbage cans on every corner. As more and more people live and raise their families here, we need to work together to keep our community beautiful.”

 

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LIC welcomes better bus service


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


The Astoria and Long Island City waterfront is getting better bus service.

Improvements to the Q103 bus line, which runs along Vernon Boulevard between Hunters Point and Astoria, began on Monday, September 9. Instead of 25 runs a day, the Q103 will now have 30. It will run every 15 minutes during the morning rush-hour. The line will also start earlier, at 5:40 a.m., instead of 6:10 a.m., and end later, at 7:50 p.m., instead of 7:18 p.m.

The bus service changes are in response to months of State Senator Michael Gianaris and community group Riders Alliance pushing the MTA for better waterfront bus service, along with other MTA improvements.

“As western Queens continues to include our city’s fastest growing neighborhoods, we need to make sure public transportation keeps up,” said Gianaris. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Riders Alliance and members of our community to improve mass transit in western Queens.”

The MTA will also fix the schedule of the Q102 bus in order for the posted times to be closer to when the bus actually arrives at the stops.

“Knowing that my bus will come more often and according to schedule is a welcome change,” said Bobby Preti, Riders Alliance member. “It’s clear that our petitioning worked, the MTA heard us, and we thank them.”

 

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Sunnyside street named in honor of Sandy Hook victim


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Sandy Hook victim Benjamin Wheeler’s name will live on forever next to the No. 7 train he loved to ride and the Sunnyside street where the world got its first look at him.

Ben, 6, originally from Sunnyside, was one of the 20 children who were killed in the gunfire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. On September 7, he was honored and celebrated during a ceremony to co-name the intersection of 41st Street and Queens Boulevard “Benjamin Wheeler Place.” Ben’s older brother, Nate, unveiled the sign.

“It’s really special that we rename this street ‘Benjamin Wheeler Place’ and the No. 7 train will go back and forth, back and forth and it will be a very beautiful thing,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “They moved to Connecticut but the love they left behind still is so incredibly strong in the community.”

Family, friends and local officials gathered wearing green, Ben’s favorite color, at the corner of 41st Street, where he lived with his parents and brother. His parents, Francine and David, lived in Sunnyside until Ben was seven months old when they decided to move to Newtown.

“We are so incredibly grateful for the chance to thank our former Sunnyside neighbors whom we are very, very lucky enough to still call friends for their love and for their support in the months immediately following last December,” said David. “You quite literally have kept us standing.”

In honor of Ben’s love for The Beatles, Congressmember Joseph Crowley sang “Here Comes the Sun” to the family.

“Nothing more fitting that we can do [today], than honor Benjamin and the entire Wheeler family by naming the street on which he spent his first day and first months, so that we will always remember the valuable contribution that they have made and their love for Sunnyside,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris.

Francine was one of the founding member of Sunnymoms, a collective of local parents who share recipes, baby sitter recommendations and parenting tips. In February, Sunnymoms organized a fundraiser and concert for the Wheeler family to honor Ben’s memory and raise money for the family.

“Ben was six, he had just learned how to tie his shoes, that was his major accomplishment but frankly he hadn’t really perfected that either,” said David. “The sign will show us where we can eventually go as people. It is up to us to make our schools, our malls, our offices, our parks, our street corners safer for children everywhere.”

 

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Hunter’s Point South Park opens in Long Island City


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Talk about a view.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg gathered with local elected officials, community members and residents on Wednesday to cut the ribbon on the new 5.5-acre Hunter’s Point South Park located on Center Boulevard in Long Island City.

“Opening up more of our city’s waterfront for public enjoyment has been a top priority for this administration,” said Bloomberg. “Around the city, we’ve reclaimed abandoned or neglected parts of our waterfront, and turning them into innovative open spaces. I know that Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park will quickly join the list of beloved green spaces along our city’s shores.”

The park features a central open green space, an urban beach with actual sand, a rail garden, dog run and play area featuring a children’s playground and basketball courts. It will also include a 13,000-square-foot pavilion housing comfort stations, concessions and an elevated café plaza.

“One of the premiere neighborhoods in all of New York City is getting better every single day,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who helped secure funds to bring natural grass to the park. “For decades to come, future generations of Long Island City residents and Queens parkgoers will be able to enjoy the panoramic views of New York City’s skyline on 5.5- acres of parkland that have never existed before.”

Hunter’s Point South Park was also constructed to be prepared for any future natural disasters and flooding of the East River.

 

The park is part of the Hunter’s Point South development project which broke ground in March on the first phase of construction. The first two residential buildings will include 925 permanently affordable apartments and around 17,000 square feet of retail space. In addition to the buildings, this phase includes a new school which is almost near completion and will house The Academy for Careers in Television and Film High School and a middle school, together seating 1,100 students.

This project will be the largest new affordable housing complex to be constructed in New York City since the 1970s.
“Long Island City is the most exciting neighborhood in New York and as it continues to grow, it is crucial that public access to the East River waterfront is secured,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris. “Together with Gantry State Park, the LIC waterfront will now be a jewel among New York’s parks.”

Construction of the park was led by the City Economic Development Corporation, and landscape architecture firm Thomas Balsley Associates and architect firm Weiss/Manfredi designed the park. It will be operated and maintained by the Parks Department.

 

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Woodhaven manhole fires injure five, damage two vehicles


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy State Senator Michael Gianaris

Five people were injured and two vehicles damaged in a pair of manhole fires in Woodhaven early Thursday morning.

The fire department responded to the blaze on 88th Road and 75th Street just before 1 a.m., officials said, and the flames were under control around 2 a.m.

The fires, which awoke residents, were caused by a failure in underground electrical wiring and equipment, according to Con Edison.

The victims were taken to Jamaica Hospital for smoke inhalation.

Senator Michael Gianaris rushed over to the area after the fire was put out. He said the smell of fire was still lingering in the air and the street was blocked off. Gianaris was concerned about the trouble with the electrical system.

“Unfortunately this is not our first experience with Con Ed having problems with their infrastructure,” he said. “It was a little bit too familiar.”

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Five Astoria subway stations get system announcing train arrival time


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Benjamin Fang

BENJAMIN FANG 

Listen up riders.

The MTA installed an automated system that tells straphangers when the next train will arrive in five Astoria stations.

The announcement systems were added at the 39th Avenue, 36th Avenue, Broadway, 30th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard stations along the N and Q lines.

“I am pleased the MTA listened to our community and made the daily commute of N and Q train riders easier,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris, who has advocated for a countdown information system in western Queens since 2010. “Countdown clocks were a great idea three years ago and although it took some time, I am pleased to see that western Queens will now be able to enjoy real-time information.”

Acting New York City Transit president Carmen Bianco hopes lettered train lines will develop similar capabilities in the next three to five years. But in the meantime the voice systems are an upgrade.

“Waiting on an elevated platform in the dead of winter or the dog days of summer is no fun,” said Lauren Houston, a member of the Riders Alliance, an advocacy organization fighting for better public transportation. “With the new loudspeaker announcements I’ll know exactly when the next train is coming and how long I need to brave the elements.”

Local commuters said they like the new audio installment, but would prefer the countdown clocks on the screens.

“I wish it was the visual,” said Astoria resident Jose Luaces. “But it’s better than not having them.”

Additional reporting by Zack Kraehling

 

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Republican Arcabascio to run for Borough President


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


An Astoria technology professional is eyeing a Borough Hall run as a Republican, making the race for borough president a little tighter.

Aurelio “Tony” Arcabascio confirmed his candidacy and expects to receive county endorsement soon.

Arcabascio, who ran his own technology company for 13 years, made his debut in the political world last year when he ran an unsuccessful race against State Senator Michael Gianaris for District 12.

Now, looking to represent the whole borough, Arcabascio said he wants to bring his experience as the only non-elected official to the table.

“I haven’t been caught up in politics for my whole career,” he esaid.

A product of Jackson Heights, Arcabascio, 52, will face one of six Democrats vying for the spot: Councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Peter Vallone Jr., State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella, former Councilmember and former Assemblymember Melinda Katz and former Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik.

The Dems will face off in a September 10 primary.

Arcabascio, who nabbed the GOP endorsement for Senate last year, expects to pick it back up for borough president. Queens Republican chair Phil Ragusa said the candidate is going through the screening process for the endorsement, and a formal announcement should come soon.

With his background in technology, Arcabascio said he is open to bringing more of the industry’s jobs to the borough, especially in western areas such as Long Island City and Maspeth.

“We have a lot of empty factories in Queens,” he said. “One of the things I believe would be my responsibility as the number one cheerleader for Queens is to get businesses here.”

 

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Department of Education: Gifted and talented classes will stay


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


The Department of Education (DOE) has decided to withdraw its controversial plan to cut the gifted and talented classes at P.S. 122. after last week’s meeting with concerned parents, teachers and elected officials from across School District 30.

“We’ve listened, and we know what an exceptional job P.S. 122 is doing with its G&T middle school students,” said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia. “We’re going to take more time to think through the challenge, consider ways to ensure equity and excellence for all families, and re-engage with the community in the future.”

Since the announcement of the plan in February, members of District 30 and local officials have protested against the idea to reduce the classes at The Academy, a prestigious middle school gifted and talented program, in order to expand

P.S. 122’s general education classes from fifth to eighth grade.

“I am thrilled that the exemplary academic program at P.S. 122 will be preserved moving forward,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris. “P.S. 122 is a gem in our community that should be allowed to continue improving the lives of the children and parents of Astoria for years to come.”

Deborah Alexander, a District 30 parent who now sees a brighter future for her son and daughter, is excited to work with the DOE and discuss any upcoming proposed changes.

“It was truly amazing to see people from every corner of District 30 to come together for a common cause and it worked and it gives me a lot of hope going forward,” said Alexander.

Alexander hopes their victory will give hope to other communities going through similar circumstances and who might feel like they are in a David and Goliath situation.

“Sometimes David does win,” said Alexander.

 

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G train to undergo full review by MTA


| hchin@homereporternews.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of State Senator Michael Gianaris

G train riders are one step closer to getting changes and improvements enacted on their subway line.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has agreed to “undertake a Full Line Review of the G train” and the review will be completed by the end of June 2013,” the transit agency announced on Friday, February 22. Residents and politicians signed a petition and rallied in January to pressure the MTA to begin addressing ongoing problems on the train line.

“I am pleased our efforts to push the MTA to improve G train service prompted the agency into action, resulting in today’s announcement of a full-line review to be completed by this June,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris, who has pushed for the MTA’s review along with State Senator Daniel Squadron and several area officials. “The G train is a lifeline for New Yorkers traveling between Queens and Brooklyn, and  I am hopeful the MTA will expeditiously implement much needed improvements so this line can better serve our commuters.”

 

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Pols call for review of ‘G’ train performance


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of State Senator Michael Gianaris

An important transit option for Queens and Brooklyn, local politicians are calling for the MTA to review the “G” line and its numerous service issues.

The train, which travels from Long Island City to Kensington, Brooklyn, and is the only subway line that doesn’t go through Manhattan, was extended recently to Church Avenue.

But that change didn’t remedy other issues, such as frequency of trains, communication with riders about service changes and disruptions, and the lack of free out-of system transfers.

These complaints were highlighted in a recent petition campaign by the Riders Alliance, and in a letter to the MTA’s interim president, Thomas Prendergast.

Sent by State Senators Daniel Squadron and Martin Malavé Dilan, the letter asked for a full performance review of the “G” line, as the MTA did with the “F” and “L” trains.

The request is also supported by over a dozen other politicians and transit advocates.

“Constant service disruptions, a lack of service change notifications and increased commuter expenses due to limited free transfers make clear that the MTA treats the G train like the ugly duckling of the MTA system,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris, who attended the Rally For a Better G Train held in Williamsburg yesterday. “It should provide commuters with direct, convenient access between Queens and Brooklyn, rather than forcing travel through Manhattan to get from one borough to the other.”

“The G Train is critical to residents and businesses throughout Brooklyn and a key connection for the growing number of workers commuting between Brooklyn and Queens. Everything possible should be done to ensure this important subway line keeps pace with the thriving communities it serves,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

 

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