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MTA irks borough officials with Lunar New Year snub

Flushing business leader Peter Tu (l.), City Councilman Peter Koo, state Assemblyman Ron Kim and state Sen. Toby Stavisky are unhappy with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

Elected officials and community leaders in Flushing are railing against the MTA for suspending weekend service on the No. 7 line during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

After meeting with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority earlier this month to discuss the planned service cuts, state. Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) convened with state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) and City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) at Kim’s Flushing headquarters Friday to voice their concerns.

“While we appreciate the MTA’s quick response to the concerns we voiced following our meeting, the people of Flushing deserve more clarity than the MTA is providing,” Stavisky said. “This construction and subsequent 7 line diversion present a significant hardship to the tens of thousands of New Yorkers wishing to celebrate Lunar New Year.”

Leaders from the predominantly Chinese and Korean downtown area asked that No. 7 train service between Manhattan and Queens not be stopped during two weekends of Lunar New Year festivities in February. The Lunar New Year will be celebrated in Flushing Feb. 10 with a series of cultural performances and then the following Saturday for the annual parade.

Stavisky said that while she and the other elected officials understand that it is too late to change the service schedule in time for this year’s Lunar New Year, she wants assurance from the MTA that future celebrations will not be compromised.

“Many businesses depend on the increased traffic the Lunar New Year Parade brings to Flushing,” she said. “The MTA saying that they hope to keep us better informed about future track work is insufficient. The people of Flushing deserve better answers.”

The delegation of elected officials is seeking a firm commitment that next year’s Lunar New Year parade and celebration will not be interrupted by service disruptions, but Koo said no such commitment was provided.

“Every year we must endure service disruptions to the 7 line during this important celebration,” he said. “Although the MTA is unwilling to restore service for this year, I am requesting that they put in writing a commitment that they will not disrupt service on the 7 train for the 2014 Lunar New Year.”

Peter Tu, executive director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, and John Choe, director of the One Flushing Community Economic Development Center, both expressed anger at the MTA and said they feel the Asian-American community in Queens is being discriminated against.

“They [MTA] are telling Flushing to sit on the back of the bus. It’s discriminatory,” said Choe. “The MTA is willing to stop construction for the US Open and for the Mets and for some holidays, but not for a day when Flushing businesses make more money than on any other day of the year.”

The elected officials said guaranteeing service on future Lunar New Years is a great opportunity for the MTA to build a strong relationship with the Flushing community.

“In some parts around the country, the transit authorities celebrate the Lunar New Year by providing free services. In New York City, instead of encouraging people to celebrate this holiday, we are making it more difficult for people to commute,” said Kim. “New York City should be proud of the fact that Flushing’s Lunar New Year festivities are known worldwide.”

A spokesman for the MTA said service to and from the parade will be available from Queensboro Plaza via the N train, where customers can get No. 7 service. The spokesman also said another option is taking the E, F or R to Roosevelt Avenue and taking the No. 7 to the parade from there. The spokesman also said the MTA would work to avoid construction conflicts during future Lunar New Years.

“We will accelerate our review of the work we anticipate needing to do on the 7 line in 2014 and to propose a schedule of required outages that would better distribute their occurrences and better accommodate Flushing’s Lunar New Year’s celebration,” said the spokesman.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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