Yesterday, I discovered that there’s another eight o’clock, as it tuns out there’s actually one in the morning.
That’s what time I had to get to the corner of 40th street and Queens Boulevard, as Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer had called together the Sunnyside community for a rally. The purpose of the rally was to protest the rough treatment which the MTA has offered 7 line riders of late. The 7 train, which is the central arterial of Sunnyside, is in the midst of a weekend maintenance cycle which has, and will, shut down the line for at least 12 weekends in 2015 alone.
This is in addition to a recent spate of week day service outages and break downs – which have spawned a series of local horror stories about 30 minute daily commutes stretching into two to three hour long endurance tests.
More after the jump…
Representatives from several media organizations were there, with big expensive video cameras. There was also a pretty big crowd of commuters and locals who made it a point to stop off and show their support. At least one passing Sunnysider or Blissvillian shouted out his thanks to the Council Man while he addressed the gathering.
From the office of Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer:
On March 11th, New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Western Queens commuters, business owners and stake holders held a rally to voice their concerns about frequent poor 7 train service. For months trains have been breaking down, bypassing 7 train stations, signals have constantly malfunctioned and overcrowded platforms continue to plague riders along the line. At the rally Council Member Van Bramer called on the MTA to release detailed data of every train delay, outage, signal malfunctions and out of service along the 7 line over the last year. Council Member Van Bramer also called on the MTA to hold an emergency town hall meeting to reveal their findings and explain to the public their plan to improve service for commuters during rush hours.
The sort of disruption that irregular or unreliable mass transit service wreaks on any community is personally and financially tangible. Your kids have to be in school, on time. You have to get to work, on time. You need to get home to pick your kids up, on time. Businesses, advertising weekend specials and sales, lose their customers because they cannot get to Queens. Some of the people in the crowd mentioned that they’ve been using taxis and car services of late, because they cannot take the chance of being late for work again.
Also from the office of Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer:
“Queens riders are fed up with poor 7 train service,” said Council Member Van Bramer. “Day in and day out commuters are faced with malfunctioning signals, trains breaking down and/or passing their stations and dangerously overcrowded platforms. The MTA must face the public and give us answers. They cannot continue to call us “complainers” or say we are guilty of “wanting it both ways.” Riders are paying for a service that is poor, inconsistent and just plain late. I call on the MTA to publicly release detailed information about every service disruption over the last year during the rush hours and answer to Queens riders. Rush hour service has gotten worse. The MTA admits it. Now we want to know why. And we want good reliable 7 train service now!”
A series of community members were invited to the microphone to share their 7 train stories, including Melissa Orlando. Melissa offered the following statement in an email:
For more than a decade, 7 train service has been in decline even as the MTA adds new trains and performs system upgrades. Maintenance and seemingly endless signal replacements and repairs often leave the residents of Western Queens stuck – unable to get to work or out of the borough on the weekend – all as the MTA continues to profit from all of us. It’s time for accountability – where is the money going, what is the timeline for the work, and when will we see improvements. Any further development in our area, including the Mayor’s plans for affordable housing, rests solely on increasing the capacity of our infrastructure – that starts right here with our trains.
Melissa Orlando, Sunnyside resident & Board Member, SunnysideArtists
CB2’s Chairman Patrick A. O’Brien was there as well, and he echoed the sentiments of the crowd. Other speakers were from Sunnyside Shines and the Long Island City Business Alliance.
This statement was received from the office of Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan:
7 train riders have endured almost daily delays this winter. The situation is unacceptable. We must properly fully fund a new MTA capital plan. I look forward to working with State Senator Gianaris in Albany to provide state funding and all of my colleagues in government including Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer to address these concerns.
Mr. Van Bramer read aloud a letter he received from the MTA regarding the situation, and was visibly angered by the statements contained in it. He recounted the amazing number of Twitter posts and phone calls directed at his office regarding the 7 line.
The 7 Line was once the Straphangers Campaign favorite, sparkling, frequent, and reliable. It was a key ingredient for life and work in Western Queen, and we used to brag about our “17-minute commute to Grand Central” at trade shows. Now, for nearly half of the year, there is no service at all on weekends and the numerous weekday delays impede commuter efforts to make their living.
Of course we applaud maintenance of the line, but current repair scheduling hurts the community.
An explosive growth in the residential population of Queens, coupled with no weekend service and daily delays, have interfered with ours lives and livelihoods. We strongly urge more support from MTA with shuttle buses, accurate station commuter alerts, and that MTA consider night time work closures only, rather than 24 or 48 hour ones.
Patricia Dorfman, Director, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce
The 7 line has been experiencing a series of problems, with ongoing signal problems at the 40th street stop, stalled trains blocking the tracks, and the memory of two days of delays due to iced over rails is still fresh in every Queensican’s mind.
Also from the office of Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer:
On December 12th, 2014 Council Member Van Bramer’s office sent a letter to the MTA referencing the severe discontent riders were experiencing with service along the 7 line. The MTA responded two months later referencing a study they conducted on service along the 7 line. Reviewing a period dating back to January 2013 the MTA revealed, “there were periods where delays and incidents have spiked.”
The addition of annual construction along the line has also persistently disrupted vehicular traffic on Queens Boulevard as well as streets adjacent to the elevated train leaving commuters trapped in Western Queens over the weekends.
Whispers overheard while moving about the crowd with my camera included “Can you imagine what it’s going to be like if they deck over the Sunnyside Yards? How will any of us be able to get to work with all those new people and the same old 7 Line?.”
And finally, from the office of Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer:
7 train commuters, community leaders and business owners packed the rally sharing their horror stories about how poor service is having negative impacts on their daily commutes, careers and personal lives. Queens train riders also took to social media to share their #7TrainNightmares with the MTA.
When the press conference was over, most of the gathering – including Mr. Van Bramer and members of his staff – walked up the stairs, presumptively to catch the train and go to work in the city. I was lucky enough to be able to stay in Queens all day, and entirely avoid the hellish environs of Manhattan.
Mr. Van Bramer was quoted by DNAinfo as saying:
“The indignity of it all is that folks have no service on the weekends, then on a Monday morning get up on these platforms, whether it’s 69th Street to Vernon-Jackson, and the service is awful, abysmal,” he said.
“I am outraged on behalf of my constituents.”
Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.