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MTA shuts down rackety LIC tunnel fan

A noisy Metropolitan Transit Authority tunnel ventilation fan has finally been shut off after months of operation through the wee hours of the night in Long Island City, the agency said Monday. But the news did not arrive before City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) publicly complained the track work was disrupting neighbors’ sleep.

“One person told me it sounded like a tornado siren,” said City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), who held a news conference Friday on 50th Avenue in front of the fan to pressure the railroad to address the situation.

MTA workers have been replacing worn rails on the No. 7 subway line in the Steinway Tunnel under the East River since May, removing the old metal, cutting new rail and welding it in place, the agency said. The fan is necessary to dissipate steel dust and diesel fumes from work trains, but the agency stopped using the Queens unit last Thursday and is now using the fan on the Manhattan side of the tunnel.

“They didn’t tell us anything,” Gioia spokesman Eric Koch said Monday.

“The MTA should be able to fix the tracks and ensure train safety while at the same time being a good neighbor,” Gioia said Friday. “No one else could get away with this.”

Ramon Olcese, who has lived in the Citylights building on the Long Island City waterfront for five years, said he has dealt with construction noise before, but always between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“You can open a window and see all the neighbors sitting up with their lights on,” he said. “It’s like you’re in the airport in front of four airplanes.”

Gioia said he received assurances from the MTA that it would work to mitigate the noise. He suggested either building noise-deadening walls around the metal housing containing the fan or activating a similar fan on the Manhattan end of the tunnel to share the burden and reduce the power level required in Long Island City — which is what the MTA ultimately did.

“While we attempted to reduce the noise by using fewer fans, they were not able to provide the level of venting necessary to protect our employees,” MTA spokesman Mark Groce said.

The project is scheduled to be completed by early October.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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