Jan. 18, 2014 By Christian Murray
More than 150 residents and business owners gathered at the Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue train station to voice their outrage at the MTA for cutting the No. 7 train service for 22 weekends this year.
Holding signs of: “What are they doing down there?” and “Shove it up your App” the attendees heard from a group of politicians, business owners and cultural groups who all said the closures would devastate the local economy.
“They cannot drive small businesses to extinction and tell us year after year it is in our best interest,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “This is almost half the number of weekends this year—and these closures will happen every year until 2017…and that is if the work is done on time,” he said.
Community leaders were particularly angered by the way the MTA notified them about the closures. (click for Feb-July schedule of closures)
“They did not come to me, the community board, business owners…and say what can we do to help … to make sure you can survive,” Van Bramer said. “They dropped a closure notice and said deal with it.”
The MTA, in a statement released Thursday, said the work is essential and that it will ultimately reduce crowding and signal problems in the long term. “We understand that these service disruptions are inconvenient to the customers who depend on the 7 train and we appreciate their patience,” the MTA said.
The attendees at the rally didn’t dispute the fact that the work is necessary. However, they believe there are a number of solutions that could help ease the pain that the MTA continues to ignore.
The community has been asking for a shuttle bus that would leave from Café Henri (adjacent to the Vernon Blvd/Jackson Ave station) and go through the midtown tunnel to Grand Central. “We even worked out a way to fund it and they have said no every time,” Van Bramer said.
One business owner suggested that the city should extend the hours of the ferry service –and honor metro cards—during the weekends affected.
Rebecca Trent, who runs the comedy club Creek and the Cave, said “I can’t run a consistently successful comedy club without a consistent train service.” She said she brings a lot of performers to her club, but none of that matters if there is no one in the audience.
Trent has started a twitter campaign—and has coined the Hashtag #wtfmta.
Meanwhile, Richard Mazda, the founder and director of the Queens Secret Theatre, said: “This work has been going on since last year, the year before that, and I’m sure they’re going to have something to fix next year as well.”
Mazda continued: “This is like the worst movie ever made—it’s like Groundhog Day, but without Bill Murray, without the groundhog, and without the jokes!”