After years of 7 train service disruptions during one of the biggest weekends in Flushing, elected officials are asking for assurances from the MTA that in the years to come the subway will be running on weekends in February.
While it is too late to reschedule track work that will keep the 7 train from running between Times Square and Queensboro Plaza for the 2013 Lunar New year Parade – scheduled for February 16 – community leaders hope the MTA can assure them it won’t be an issue next year.
The annual event, which last year drew an estimated 200,000 visitors, brings critical economic activity to local businesses. Elected officials fear those same businesses will suffer if there are issues with the service on the 7 train.
“We have sent a letter asking them to hold off on weekend service during the Lunar New Year Parade,” said State Senator Toby Stavisky at a press conference last Friday afternoon in the office of Assemblyman Ron Kim.
That letter was signed by Stavisky, Kim, Councilman Peter Koo, and Congresswoman Grace Meng.
The MTA is currently upgrading the signal system on the 7 line to allow for more trains. The MTA schedules the work during the winter because that is when ridership is lowest, according to the agency. Work is scheduled to continue through 2016.
Stavisky said that they gave the MTA a deadline of one week to respond to their request to put it in writing that there will be weekend service in February 2014, or at the very least the weekend of the parade, which is scheduled for February 10.
On Monday, January 7, elected officials met with Thomas Prendergast, the interim president of the MTA. The MTA said they would try to mitigate the disruptions in service, work to publicize the event, and make sure riders were aware of other transit options, but said it could not reschedule the work.
The agency also stopped short of guaranteeing full service in the years to come, but said it would review the matter.
“They were very wishy-washy with no real commitment,” said Koo.
Some see the MTA’s reluctance to reschedule the work as a slight on the largely Asian immigrant population in Downtown Flushing, noting that the MTA doesn’t disrupt service during Mets games at nearby Citi Field or during the U.S. Open.
“The MTA doesn’t pay any attention to the Asian-American community,” said Koo.
Pendergrast took over for Joseph Lhota, who resigned recently to explore a possible run for mayor. The governor will soon nominate a new person to head the MTA, who will have to be confirmed by the Assembly and State Senate.
Stavisky said if the MTA doesn’t respond favorably to the letter’s request for guarantees of full service during the parade, she would make sure the nominee is aware of the issue during confirmation hearings.
“If we’re not satisfied, I will ask these questions publicly,” she said.