BY SAM RAPPAPORT
Residents of Woodside are becoming increasingly agitated with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) ongoing renovations for the 7 train. While the MTA cites the renovations as necessary to maintain the safety and reliability of the line, business owners said that the construction work is cumbersome, irregular and destructive to commerce in the area.
During a Friday press conference, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said that the MTA’s practice of closing city streets and occupying parking spots is putting local businesses in a stranglehold.
“We demand better train service, but we are also here to demand that the MTA give us back our streets, give us back our parking and stop harming local businesses,” Van Bramer said. “We want the 7 train to be in good repair, but we also want the MTA to do their work in a way that doesn’t harm our local businesses.”
Dan Connor—a co-owner of Donovan’s Pub, located at 57-24 Roosevelt Ave.—said that he’s seen a marked decrease in business over the past few months. He attributes this directly to the MTA’s renovation work.
“We never know when, all of a sudden, two four-story cranes will appear outside our window,” Connor said.
Connor noted that MTA construction crews have shut down local streets and parking during 15 weekends in the past year, including the past four consecutive weekends.
Connor also said that even when construction crews are not physically present, commuters are negatively affected. According to Connor, the MTA routinely hangs “No Parking” signs in the area, regardless of whether construction crews are present or not.
“They hang up signs that say, ‘No Parking from 7 a.m.-4 p.m.,’ and then they don’t even show up,” Connor said.
Van Bramer fears that the constant road closures could have irreversible effects for some establishments in the area.
“I’m worried that if this continues, we may see some of these small businesses forced to close,” he said on Friday.
Van Bramer’s office said that the MTA is slated to continue renovations in the area through mid-March.
Chang Behk—the senior pastor at New Generation Church, located at 57-04 Roosevelt Ave.—echoed concerns about the MTA’s renovation.
“This is the most unusual experience in my 25 years at this location,” Behk said. “The public does not have a full understanding of what is going on.”
On various days, Behk said, he has come into work to find MTA vehicles in the church’s private parking lot. On other days, the parking lot is barricaded.
“The past three Sundays have been difficult,” Behk said. “People couldn’t get into the parking lot. If this continues, it’s not good.”
MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein rebuffed the claim that the extent and scope of the renovation have been poorly communicated.
“We have been in constant contact with elected officials and the community board on this project and we look forward to continuing that engagement,” Weinstein said. “This equipment is essential for critical state-of-good-repair work on the 7 line and we simply must do maintenance to ensure safe, reliable service for Queens.”
As renovations continue, Connor said that he plans to make as much noise as possible, until the MTA takes steps to alleviate the situation.
“We’re going to be as vocal as we can because they seem not to care at all,” he said.