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Catsimatidis slams No. 7 shutdown

Mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis (third from l.) and Arthur Rosenfield, of the LIC/Astoria Chamber of Commerce, protest the No. 7 train weekend shutdowns in Dutch Kills Green. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

Republican mayoral hopeful John Catsimatidis visited Queens Plaza last week to demand the MTA halt work on the No. 7 train for the weekends of the Lunar New Year.

“Why are they abusing the Asians and not respecting them?” Catsimatidis asked. “They’re not showing respect for half a million people in the outerboroughs.”

Catsimatidis was the latest politician to protest the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s decision to shut down the No. 7 train between Times Square and Queensborough Plaza for 13 consecutive weekends for ongoing work on the Queens artery’s signal system.

The MTA says when complete the new system, known as Communications Based Train Control, will increase safety, decrease maintenance and allow the agency to run more trains. The agency has shut down the No. 7 train for consecutive weekends for multiple years in a row.

Small business owners in Long Island City have argued that taking the No. 7 out of commission for so long hurts their businesses, and Flushing elected officials and business leaders have been particularly irked that the work is not halted for Lunar New Year, a major holiday among the borough’s Chinese and Korean populations.

Catsimatidis joined with Arthur Rosenfield, of the Astoria/Long Island City Chamber of Commerce; Democratic City Council Candidate Tony Meloni; and local business owners Feb. 7 at Dutch Kills Green, a park in Queens Plaza near where the No. 7 and the N and Q lines run, to protest the MTA’s decision. The Lunar New Year runs from Feb. 10 to 25.

“The weekend of Lunar New Year, they should have given us a break,” Catsimatidis said. “It’s no big deal.”

The track work for the No. 7 train ended up being canceled due to the snowstorm Saturday and Sunday, an MTA spokesman said. The MTA was planning to store trains in the Steinway Tunnels, but the storm was not as severe as expected and trains stayed on schedule, the spokesman said.

Catsimatidis said that when he is mayor, he plans to have a deputy mayor for each borough who would report back to him on the concerns of the members of the community and let him know what’s going on.

“You need a real person in charge,” he said, “not a professional politician or a bureaucrat.”

Meloni said the MTA needs to speak to the affected communities about what would be the least disruptive times for their business to do track work.

“It is about the people first of all, and the small businesses,” Meloni said.

The MTA has argued that the winter shutdowns of the No. 7 train are necessary because that is when ridership is lowest. The agency has also said that due to the nature of the work it cannot use the FastTrack program, which shuts down the subway during weekday evenings, as the work would take two months to complete and there are not sufficient public transportation alternatives.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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