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Van Bramer, Nolan protest 7 train closure

January is here again and for Hunters Point that means the MTA will shut down the Vernon Boulevard No. 7 train station for nearly two months as it has done for several years, causing hassles for residents and lost revenue for businesses.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) gathered with state Assembly members Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside) at the station Friday to protest the agency’s continued practice of shutting down the stop with minimal input from the neighborhood.

The elected officials got word last week that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to suspend No. 7 train service to and from Grand Central Terminal for seven weekends starting Jan. 29. Those trying to get to or from Hunters Point will have to use a shuttle bus operating between the stop and Queens Plaza, where the Q train has been extended to Grand Central.

“We can’t continue to see these massive service reductions every year with little to no community input or notification,” Van Bramer said. “This is something that we can no longer tolerate.”

Quinn said she recognized the MTA has to maintain its tracks, but noted “you cannot make major disruptions in the subway service with ... no regard for the impact on the community and then propose alternate service that doesn’t really move people to and from where they need to go. It’s really a slap in the face to the Long Island City community.”

Sheila Lewandowsky, director of Long Island City’s Chocolate Factory Theatre, said the shuttle bus can stretch out the trip from Grand Central to her neighborhood to as much as an hour — which can derail the plans of spur-of-the-moment theatergoers when they see the fliers at the station.

“The ripple effect of that is they don’t come to the show and then they don’t go out to the after-party that’s at the restaurant around the corner afterwards or they don’t come out earlier for their coffee or tea,” she said.

Van Bramer, Quinn and Nolan wrote a letter to the MTA Jan. 20 requesting direct shuttle service to Grand Central via the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, but said Friday they had heard nothing back yet from the agency.

In the meantime, New York City Transit spokesman Charles Seaton defended the MTA’s handling of the service changes, noting letters were sent out to elected officials and a release was sent to local news organizations. Bus service through the tunnel was out of the question, he said.

“Direct bus service between LIC and Grand Central is not a viable option because of the large number of buses needed to replace subway trains and the traffic gridlock they would have to operate in on both ends of the trip,” he wrote in an e-mail.

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

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