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MTA slammed at LIC meeting for work on 7 train

Half a decade of pent-up commuter frustration poured out on a group of MTA officials who came to Long Island City last week at the request of City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) to hear the community’s complaints about weekend repair work on the No. 7 subway line.

Van Bramer and other elected officials were disappointed that they could not extract a pledge from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to establish a shuttle bus between the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue subway stop and Grand Central Terminal for the five remaining weekends of scheduled track repair, they did win a few other concessions.

But NYC Transit Vice President for Community Relations Lois Tendler did promise that the MTA would notify the community much further in advance of closing the Vernon station and hold community meetings about the situation.

Workers have been replacing sections of 25-year-old track between Grand Central Terminal and the Queensboro Plaza stop, MTA officials said, noting the heavy volume of usage on the No. 7 line necessitates frequent major repairs.

“Nobody is really talking about proper urban planning,” state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) said, warning that the population of Long Island City was exploding. “You couldn’t have had this many people at a community meeting here even six years ago.”

The tunnel ventilation fan next to the City Lights building was again a sore point, with furious residents complaining that the machine has operated through the night on several occasions — once for as long as 14 hours nonstop.

“If you weren’t a state agency, what you are doing would be illegal,” said City Lights resident Ed Sadowsky.

MTA officials unveiled a sound-mitigating proposal for the fan, but said it would cost $300,000. Van Bramer indicated he and other elected officials would work to find money to help the cash-strapped agency make the improvement.

Owners of theaters in Long Island City and Woodside expressed frustration with the agency’s continued refusal to provide direct transit from Grand Central to the Vernon-Jackson stop, complaining it deterred their patrons.

“How many times are we going to open up the patient and say we have more work to do?” said Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley. “We heard it in 2006, we heard it in 2007. We were told in 2009 this was going to be the last for a long time.”

Peter Cafiero, chief of operations planning for the MTA, said it was more effective to bus people to Queensboro Plaza where they can catch the E train into Manhattan. All the track work is condensed into the winter months because there are no New York Mets games or tennis tournaments that would produce a glut of passengers.

Political consultant Dan Jacoby summed up the frustrations of western Queens at being inconvenienced in favor of the struggling baseball squad’s fans.

“If you schedule work for October, maybe by Murphy’s Law the Mets will make the playoffs,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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