Rebecca Trent, owner of Creek and the Cave, a restaurant and comedy club at 10-93 Jackson Ave. in Long Island City, says her business simply could not withstand the expected losses during these repairs.
“Not one ounce of my hard work, of my blood, sweat and tears matters if there are no people there,” Trent said. “Art cannot happen without an audience. This issue has been going on for decades in Long Island City. The MTA continues to apply 1970’s solutions in a 2014 world.”
In an effort to maintain an active business community during the service outages, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer proposed the MTA provide shuttle bus services from Hunters Point to Grand Central, as well as the use of the MTA FASTTRACK initiative, a program that shuts down the tracks in segments during repairs to allow alternative subway service.
“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, standing in front of dozens of angry business owners last week outside of Dorian Café at 10-01 50th Avenue. “The MTA continues to disrupt the lives of the residents of the 26th District and beyond with these annual service disruptions along the 7 line.”
Van Bramer also called on the MTA to increase the frequency of the N train during weekend repairs, as well as subsidize East River ferry service to bring the cost down from $4 to $2.50, or the same price as a subway ride.
“We will not continue to allow the MTA to interrupt our way of life,” he said.
Another suggestion from the councilman is that the MTA help market Long Island City businesses in Manhattan to combat the anticipated losses.
The MTA issued a press release the day before the press conference outlining the planned work for the $550 million capital improvement project, which includes, “the latest round of ongoing work to modernize, improve and fortify MTA New York City Transit’s Flushing 7 Line.”
“We understand that these service disruptions are inconvenient to the customers who depend on the 7 train and we appreciate their patience,” said NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco in the release. “We have made every effort to schedule these projects simultaneously to get as much work done as we can during these periods.”
Work is scheduled to focus on segments of the line between 74th Street- Broadway and Times Square-42nd St, Bianco said.
“We have timed this vital work to minimize impacts to customers, pedestrians and vehicular traffic, and to avoid dates with high projected ridership,” added Bianco.
Business owners, however, say the lack of relief from the MTA could make for a devastating 2014.
Sheila Lewandowski, founder of the Chocolate Factory Theater at 5-49 49th Avenue, said nearly 95 percent of her audience takes public transit to her theater and 22 weekends of service repairs could essentially put her out of business.
“Should Queens have world-class art if our public transportation system continues to operate as if it’s just a commuter line?” Lewandowski asked. “Data shows that visitors are going to all five boroughs, from all five boroughs, but if the message is just don’t come to Queens on the weekends then the answer is no world-class art, and The Chocolate Factory should just move to Manhattan or close.”
Trent added that with an increase of nearly 500 percent growth in the community since the 1970’s, the Creek and the Cave venue now brings in nearly 500 artists and 150 live events every month.
“We simply cannot endure the closures,” Trent said. “The businesses can’t endure them, the residents can’t endure them and our politicians don’t believe we should have to."
State Senator Michael Gianaris said he hopes they will respond to the call from the Queens business community with action.
“Our fast-growing western Queens neighborhoods require increased mass transit options, not ones that are being slashed,” Gianaris said. “The people of LIC and Sunnyside deserve better than 22 weekends of 7 train closures, and I will fight to ensure the MTA reduces weekend closures, improves local bus service and increases transit alternatives like free shuttle bus service.”