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In response to a public outcry, the MTA has scheduled a January meeting with Flushing leaders over planned service cuts to the No. 7 train during the Lunar New Year holiday.
Leaders from the predominantly Chinese and Korean downtown area will head to the authority to ask that No. 7 train service between Manhattan and Queens not be stopped during two weekends of Lunar New Year festivities in February. The meeting was scheduled days after a press conference in Flushing, where business leaders and lawmakers blasted the MTA stance, according to state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone).
“We want a resolution that they will respect the people who participate in the Lunar New Year celebrations by suspending the service interruptions,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to do this every year.”
The Flushing contingent also hopes to inform Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota why the holiday is so important, according to Dian Yu, executive director of the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District.
“We also want to educate Joe Lhota what this Lunar New Year is all about,” he said.
The holiday is the largest and most important in countries like Korea and China, where millions of people take a week off from work to travel home and spend time with friends and family. It is on par with Christmas and Thanksgiving in Western countries — holidays where the authority rescinds similar service interruptions.
The Lunar New Year will be celebrated in Flushing first on Feb. 10 with a series of cultural performances and then the following Saturday for the annual parade.
The agency has cancelled its maintenance work during the parade only once in 2008.
At a February 2010 hearing of the City Council Transportation Committee, Transit President Thomas Prendergast acknowledged the importance of the holiday, but it has had no subsequent effect on the authority’s schedule.
“Well, that’s another time we ought to be sensitive to, ’cause it is important for the Asian population,” Prendergast said in response to a statement by Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) at the Council meeting.
Peter Tu, executive director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, is chairman of the parade committee. He will also be making the trek to the MTA’s offices, but he hopes the community and the MTA can reach an agreement so the two sides can stopping butting heads on an annual basis.
“If MTA breaks down the No. 7 train service, the parade will still go well,” he said. “But more and more, it is about the respect of the culture.”
Tu and the others would like to see a cooperation between the community and the authority to make sure the festival has full train service each year, especially considering the fact that the MTA makes money off No. 7 train riders, many of whom are Asian Americans.
The MTA has said anyone wishing to reach Flushing can take the N train from Manhattan — including from the Times Square station — to Queensborough Plaza, where riders can then catch the No. 7 train to Flushing’s Main Street station.
The track work is scheduled for 12 weekends beginning Dec. 29.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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