Dozens of 7 train commuters made their voices heard at a Sunnyside rally last week. Led by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Congressman Joseph Crowley, they put pressure on the MTA to improve the commuting conditions on the 7 train.
People have been complaining about the physical condition of the line, as well as its performance, for years, officials said. The 101-year-old line has also had issues of lead paint falling from the elevated tracks onto the streets of the neighborhood.
Recently, the MTA secured a $45 million contract funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for these specific repairs, and plan to begin the work in June. The project is expected to take two years.
“The good news is that the MTA is finally taking the issue of painting the 7 train trestle seriously,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm. “Working together, we will monitor the progress of the painting schedule and continue to hold the MTA accountable.”
Although residents are relieved about fixing the deteriorating overhead structure and the chipping lead paint, complaints about overcrowdedness and undependable service are just as important to them.
Van Bramer, when asked what the plan was if the MTA continued to miss promised deadlines, said, “What we can do is what we are doing, which is to continue to use the bully pulpit of our offices, but also, with power of people to raise their voices and demand accountability.”
He also called on New York City Transit President Andy Byford to come see the issues for himself.
“Andy Byford should come here, have an emergency town hall, address some of these questions here for the riders themselves and deliver real service that people can rely on,” he said. “Our people along the 7 train work hard, and they need to get to work on time and they need to get back home to be with their families.”
Crowley put partial blame on current federal government policies regarding infrastructure.
“I think it’s important to point out federal government has not done its job,” he said. “They’re gonna try to go lean when it comes to mass transit and I will not let that happen. We need to get this done and make this the line that it once was.”
Melissa Orlando from the group Access Queens attended the rally as well. She explained that the bad service on the 7-line is not only an inconvenience for commuters, but has an even more serious impact on local businesses.
“The delays on the project, the signal problems, the constant breakdowns of the train have real economic impact,” she said, “not just on the riders who are stuck on the platform, but has an economic impact on the businesses in Queens, on businesses in Manhattan, and it is detrimental to our great borough.”
They also expressed concerns that the 7 line will become even more crowded with the coming L train shutdown in 2019. Even more people will be forced to transfer at Court Square, which is already overcrowded, and not only at rush hour, officials said.
“When you take it regularly, you have to plan on waiting or not being able to get on the first three trains that go by,’ said Sunnyside resident Regina Shanley, who lives along the 7 train and depends on it as her source of transport daily.
MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein assured the public that Byford is “very unhappy” about the delays and is pushing the contractor installing the new signal line to complete the project before the deadline.
“We appreciate our customers’ patience while these projects are underway,” Weinstein said in a statement. “When they’re complete, the 7 line will have some of the newest infrastructure in the entire subway system.”