The 7 train will be out of service between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square-42nd Street on weekends for 13 consecutive weeks, beginning on Saturday, December 29. The weekend closures are nothing new, as they have been used in the past to help institute the Communications Based Train Control (CBTC).
CBTC that will improve reliability, enhance safety, reduce maintenance and will be able to operate more trains, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.
But local elected officials and business owners argue hey were not given the proper notification, and that the MTA promised an open dialogue regarding the work being done on the tracks that cause the closures.
At a protest in Long Island City, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said the MTA should have done the work in the summer when residents are more willing to walk to alternative mass transportation. He went on to accuse the MTA of specifically scheduling the track work for the winter because of sporting events.
“I wish the MTA cared just as much about waiters and waitresses and small business owners and cultural organizations as they do about the New York Mets and the U.S. Open,” he said.
Ortiz, however, said that less people use the 7 train in the winter, so working at this time will disrupt the least amount of people, according to the MTA.
Shelia Lewandowski, executive director of the Chocolate Factory Theater and member of Community Board 2, said that this will hurt local businesses. The theater has four shows during the 13 weeks that the MTA will shut down this portion of the 7 line.
“If we knew three months ago, there are some shows we might have been able to reschedule, but with two week's notice we can’t do that,” she said.
Ortiz said that a letter was sent on December 3 outlining the work that was going to take place, but lacked the specific dates it would occur.
During the disruptions, the MTA will use shuttle buses that will leave from Long Island City and go into Manhattan. However, local community members said that people won’t want to wait in the cold weather for the bus.
Lewnadoski said that in the past she has had to create incentives during the disruptions to get people into the seats, because the 7 train is such a vital part of her business. This time she said she wasn’t given enough notice to create a plan to draw people into the theater.
“We try to figure out ways to make it work,” she said. “Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t.”