BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
On Jan. 17, business owners, cultural and community leaders who frequently use No. 7 train called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to stop disrupting the lives of Queens residents by conducting service on the train line for 22 continuous weekends.
These disruptions will begin Feb. 28 and are projected to continue through July, Kevin Ortiz, MTA spokesperson, said.
As a result, the disruptions threaten to cripple businesses and cultural groups throughout Queens, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. It also negatively impacts the lives of thousands of riders who count on the 7 Line to get to work, school and vital medical appointments over the weekend.
“We are sick and tired of the MTA shoving these disruptions down our throats and telling us they are good for us,” Van Bramer said. “Enough is enough. We will not continue to allow the MTA to interrupt our way of life.”
Van Bramer proposed alternatives to the repairs during the rally, which includes a decrease in the frequency of construction and service disruptions, to utilize MTA’s Fastrack Program on the 7 line, increase the N train frequency and have M trains run on weekends, and provide a shuttle bus service directly from Hunters Point, Long Island City to Grand Central.
Ortiz responded to Van Bramer’s proposals, saying “The most important point that I want to make is that all this work is absolutely vital and necessary to the line.”
The three major projects the MTA will conduct over the course of the 22-weekends include installation of the communications-based train control, fixing the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy inside the Steinway-tube, which connects the No. 7 train to Manhattan. Lastly, Ortiz said they will work to replace old track panels, which pose safety concerns and cause delays.
Ortiz said construction on the 7 train cannot happen overnight as a part of the Fastrack program because the level of work involved can not be done within an eight-hour cycle.
“It’s impossible,” he said. “We need at least 50 hours of continuous operation.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said it is simply unacceptable for the MTA to shutdown such a vital transportation link for 22 straight weekends.
“The Number 7 line is one of the busiest subway lines in the City and its Flushing-Main Street station is the busiest subway stop in Queens,” she said. “We should be talking about adding trains to the line, not about cutting service along it.”