BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
While the MTA works on three infrastructure improvement projects on the 7 subway line each weekend, starting at the end of February through July, it has agreed to recompense customers traveling to and from Queens and Manhattan with an advertising campaign to promote the many restaurants and cultural institutions in Long Island City.
Representatives from the MTA and elected officials discussed the weekend shutdowns, between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square, with nine more closures expected during the latter part of the year, behind closed doors last Thursday.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said even though the meeting was a nice gesture, it proved to be insufficient.
“It’s one thing to have a sit around the table and talk to people who listen to our concerns and it’s another thing to have action on those concerns,” he said.
Among the suggestions put forth by elected officials, Gianaris said the two most notable included direct shuttle bus service to and from Queens and Manhattan or subsidizing the costs of the East River Ferry service during the shutdowns.
“When they are cutting the service they do provide and they are not using substitutions, like a bus service, which they also provide, they’ve got to do something,” Gianaris said.
According to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, the meeting was productive, expressing the need for this type of work and understanding the community’s concerns.
“This work is so crucial because we are doing three different projects at one time,” he said.
Ortiz said neither of the suggestions are plausible alternatives.
He said the MTA believes it would be much quicker to use the Queens-bound shuttle bus service to the N or Q train and then take the E train into the City, to avoid heavy Midtown traffic with the shuttle bus service.
In order to provide subsidies to the cost of the East River Ferry service, Ortiz said elected officials would have to approve that through the City’s Economic Development Corporation.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said “they [MTA officials] should get on the phone with the ferry service operators and administration officials to find a solution to the problem.”
“Let’s be blunt, if they did what they should do, which is a shuttle bus service, then there is not even a need for subsidizing the ferry,” he added.
Ortiz said the MTA can in fact provide proper customer outreach, which they are fully committed to doing, in terms of informing customers about the weekend shutdowns.
He said the MTA will develop a marketing campaign that would advertise LIC at subway stations across Queens and Manhattan, through the use of posters, brochures and newly-printed double-sided Metrocards.
“An advertising campaign making people aware of the great restaurants and cultural institutions is great, but it’s not that helpful if people can’t get there,” Van Bramer said.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.