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The 7 train has been horrible this year. Sometimes it skips stops. Other times, it terminates at Willets Point instead of Main Street. And every now and then, it doesn’t run at all. In fact, disgruntled riders have created a Facebook page to vent their frustrations.

But now there’s something to celebrate.

On June 18, Sunnyside Shines and ReCreate Queens will kick off a performance series at Bliss Plaza, which is located near the 7 train’s 46th Street stop off Roosevelt Avenue. A local group, the Street Beat Brass Band will present a multicultural program of brass- and street-based music from various parts of the world at 6:30 pm.

Then the series will re-appear every third Thursday over the following four months.

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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…

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All that anyone seems to talk about in Queens these days, at least in my circles, is how crowded the subways have become. According to the MTA, they’re experiencing record ridership, which is actually a good thing as people aren’t driving as much and using mass transit. The bad part is what happens when there’s trouble on one of the tracks and you have an entire subway line’s worth of people having to find an alternative route to work.

More after the jump…

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Several times over the last couple of weeks, my friends have endured the announcement that I harbored a desire to go the zoo. They all started rattling off about how easy it is to get to the Bronx or Central Park from Astoria, and I was forced to interrupt their advice.

Why leave Queens, if you want to visit a zoo? The stunned reply has uniformly been: Wait, Queens has a zoo?

That’s how I found myself on the 7 train last Thursday morning, heading to the 111th street stop high above Roosevelt Avenue.

Critique is offered on the “wayfinding” front to the officiates and wardens of this institution, as I know exactly where the place is, but I still felt a bit “lost” while walking the short few blocks from the train.

Suffice to say, head downhill and for the Terrace on the Park building, which is an easy landmark that the Queens Zoo is next door to.

The signage issue continued to be confusing, to say the least, even at the periphery of the park itself.

Luckily, a fantastic hand illustrated map was displayed nearby the zoo’s entrance, which is about the equivalent of a city block back into the park from 111th street.

Tickets are on sale in the little building pictured above.

It’s $8 for an adult, $6 for seniors, and $5 for kids. Kids under 3 are admitted for free. Until November, their hours are: Monday–Friday 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Weekends & Holidays 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

From nyc.gov:

The Queens Zoo in Flushing Meadows Corona Park opened October 26, 1968 on the grounds of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. The last borough to get its own zoo, over 10,000 people attended the ceremony at which former Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, then-current commissioner August Heckscher, and Metropolitan Transit Authority President William T. Ronan all spoke at the opening.

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Jack Eichenbaum grew up in Bayside in the 1950s. He left for academic and vocational reasons in 1963, and when he returned from completing his doctorate in urban geography in 1976, he found a completely different borough. The mostly white, working class neighborhoods of his youth had transformed into multi-ethnic enclaves, creating the world’s most diverse county. Fascinated, he started giving walking tours of his beloved hometown in the 1980s, and in 2010, Eichenbaum was designated the official historian of Queens, as per the borough president’s office. The former city assessor has five upcoming tours, which are famous for the amount of local trivia he shares and the great restaurants he hits afterwards with participants. For more information, please see below.

  • Willets Point, Sunday, May 25th, 4 pm: East of Citi Field is a sewerless, hardscrabble area of auto junkyards and related businesses that has twice beaten back recent attempts at redevelopment. But since it’s located between the world famous baseball stadium and booming Flushing, public and private interests are again trying to transform Willets Point. Eichenbaum will walk from central Flushing to the area, while discussing political, economic and ecological issues and explaining why “Willets Point” is a misnomer. $20.
  • The World of the 7 Train, Saturday, May 31st, 10 am: Eichenbaum calls this full-day program his “signature tour,” although it’s actually a series of six walks (Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Corona and Flushing) and connecting rides. He focuses on the 7 train’s influence on surrounding neighborhoods. Lunch is in Flushing. Pre-register via jaconet@aol.com.
  • On and Off Jamaica Avenue, Sunday, June 8th, 10 am: After decades of dedication, redesign, and redevelopment, Downtown Jamaica is undergoing a renaissance as the borough’s major transportation center. Eichenbaum promises historic buildings, commercial activity, culture, and a surprise ending. $20.
  • Crossing Newtown Creek: Contrasting Industrial Brooklyn & Queens, Sunday, July 27th, 10 am: See remnants of the intense and largely unregulated industrial development that thrived along Newtown Creek during the late 19th century. See elegant Greenpoint highlights and East River shoreline redevelopment ending with shoreline views from Gantry Park and Hunter’s Point.
  • More Space and New Arrangements in Western Queens, Sunday, August 3rd, 10 am: During the first third of the 20th century, Western Queens nurtured developments where traditional open space/building area relationships were altered to create new urban architecture. Sunnyside Gardens and the Jackson Heights Historic District anchor this tour, which includes Phipps Garden Apartments, various Matthews Flats, the Metropolitan Life houses, and early truck-oriented industrial buildings.

Photo: Alex Engel

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Check out the MTA’s new marketing campaign to promote Long Island City while the 7 train is down on weekends. According to LIC Post, “The MTA is about to put the public service announcements up at every No. 7 train station and on each No. 7 train… It will also be putting the posters up at a number of other stations and on a variety of different train lines.” The posters have not gone up yet but the advertisement is now on the MTA website. The MTA also agreed to keep the 7 train running during the week of May 17th and 18th, due to all these awesome events. The weekend train shutdown will last until July 21st.

MTA Unveils Long Island City Marketing Material [LIC Post]

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The MTA announced that during its 12-weekend shutdown of the 7 train, it will not shut down 7 Line service to Queens the weekend of May 17th and 18th. The MTA listened to concerns from Long Island City residents and business owners, who are struggling with the shutdown, and decided to keep the train running for one important weekend in LIC.

Here’s what’s happening: on Saturday, May 17th, the LIC Partnership is holding LIC Springs!, a free, community block festival on Vernon Boulevard in partnership with the city’s Weekend Walks program. And the LIC Arts Open – a nine-day festival – will stretch through that weekend. There’s also the LIC Flea & Food, the new Astoria Flea & Food at Kaufman Astoria Studios, and the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Overall, a ton of events happening with public transportation to access them. After the weekend, the shutdown will last until July 21st.

Photo by vanshnookenraggen

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Next Thursday, March 27th, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer is hosting a Town Hall Meeting on the 22 consecutive weekends of closures and annual ongoing service disruptions for the 7 train. (Residents, as you may guess, are struggling with the lack of 7 train service.) Carmen Bianco, President of MTA NYC Transit, will be on hand to hear concerns and field questions. The event is open and free to the public.

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Over the past weekend, the MTA suspended the 7 train for the first of 12 weekends through July 21st. Queens Courier spoke to members of the LIC community on how the shutdown affects them. Residents had a hard time traveling to and from Manhattan during the weekend, with a 10 to 15 minute trip taking close to three hours. And local businesses like Alobar and The Creek and The Cave noticed a distinct decline in customers. A group of business owners plan to promote the neighborhood and dedicate street team efforts to bring people into LIC during the weekend shutdowns. The MTA is also trying to work on a marketing campaign to help the community, but it’s unclear how that will play out. According to the Courier: “Business owners say the MTA has told them that they are not being given advertising space, but instead can add images and words to the disclosure notices located on subway cars.”

Unfortunately, there are even more shutdowns to expect after this round is over: the MTA stated there are nine tentative weekend service suspensions scheduled for August through November.

LIC Community Struggles with First Weekend of No. 7 Train Suspensions [Queens Courier]

Photo by vanshnookenraggen

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Corona Yards is the largest trainyard in Queens devoted entirely to the care and maintenance of subway cars, servicing equipment used on the Flushing #7 line, which was built in stages beginning in 1915. The line used tunnels under the East River that were originally meant to carry trolley cars belonging to William Steinway’s New York and Queens Railroad Company, which ran extensively in Queens but was never expanded to Manhattan. Eventually, the trolley line shuttered in 1937 and was replaced by bus lines. The Flushing Line was extended to Corona by 1925 and to Main Street, Flushing in 1928. There has been periodic talk of extending the line to the city line via Northern Boulevard, but it’s been just talk.

In this photo we see three generations of subway cars that have been used on the line since 1964. At left is a new R-188 car, part of a new fleet that will be introduced on the Flushing Line gradually in 2014 and 2015. Uniquely among subway lines, Flushing Line trainsets use 11 cars instead of the 10  cars used on most other subway lines (though the G train in Brooklyn and Queens uses just four cars).

In the center is an R-33 car, introduced on the line during the World’s Fair held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for two years, 1964-1965; the now-demolished Shea Stadium also opened in 1964. In the Fair years the R-33s had a two-tone blue paint job, with World’s Fair signage. Some cars had states’ names on the sides of the cars; some states that had exhibits at the Fair chose to purchase space on the cars on which their names would be listed. R-33s were the workhorses of the Flushing Line until the early 2000s. In their later years, a dark red paint scheme lent them the nickname “Redbirds.”

On the right is the R-62A, introduced on IRT lines in 1984 and gradually becoming a part of the Flushing Line beginning in 2002. The R-188s will eventually force them into retirement.

Kevin Walsh’s website is Forgotten NY. His new book, Forgotten Queens, can be purchased via the Greater Astoria Historical Society.