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Flushing lawmakers want full service restored to the No. 7 train for the neighborhood’s Lunar New Year celebrations set for this weekend.
The train, which runs through downtown Flushing, is scheduled to be shut down Saturday and Sunday between Long Island City and Manhattan as part of 11 weeks of maintenance by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
But elected officials said the lack of vital public transportation could prove disastrous for the small businesses that count on the yearly influx of people to maintain their bottom line.
“The Lunar New Year Festival is extremely important for small businesses in downtown Flushing,” state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said in a statement. “Though maintenance of the 7 train is critical to keep this lifeline dependable and reliable, the economic significance of this weekend is paramount.”
Meng, along with two other elected officials who represent the area, sent a letter to MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, calling on him to restore service and allow potential shoppers to take public transportation to the largely Asian neighborhood for the weekend.
The MTA sent out an advisory Tuesday afternoon indicating that the train’s schedule would not be altered for the holiday.
The train will not run between the Queensboro Plaza and Times Square-42nd Street stations because of the construction, but would operate between Queensboro Plaza and Flushing Main Street stations.
The MTA advised anyone coming from Manhattan to take the N or Q trains to Queensboro Plaza and transfer to the 7 train.
But City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said moving the construction to another weekend would give a huge boost to the community while not drastically affecting the overall schedule of the crews who will perform maintenance on the tunnels that run under the East River.
The 11 weekends of scheduled maintenance started Jan. 21, two days before Lunar New Year celebrations kicked off.
“I agree these repairs are necessary, but changing the start date from the weekend prior to Lunar New Year to even one weekend after would greatly help local businesses to sell their seasonal goods and conduct holiday services for their customers,” Koo said.
The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in many Asian cultures, and this year is even more exciting for many in Flushing because it is the Year of the Dragon, the most popular of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac.
The annual Lunar New Year Parade alone is predicted to bring in 100,000 people, according to the organization that runs it.
Changing the maintenance schedule for the weekend would not be unprecedented, according to state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone).
In 2008, Stavisky and other lawmakers convinced the city to call off service upgrades for the weekend in order to have No. 7 train service during Lunar New Year celebrations.
“It is my hope that we will once again be able to protect the community during this important holiday,” she said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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