Court Sq. riders waiting for MTA ‘understanding’

Michael Gianaris

April 28, 2011

Queens Chronicle asked Senator Gianaris to comment on the delayed opening of the transfer section at the Court Square stop in Long Island City.

A completed escalator would allow passengers to transfer to the E, G and M trains without walking above ground. An elevator, right, would allow the disabled to access the 7 train station easily. Stores located behind the glass escalator enclosure are out of business, below.

 An escalator covered in plastic wrap, benches and an elevator barricaded, lamp posts wrapped with black plastic bags — no, this isn’t the art of Christo and Jeanne Claude, but the work of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City.

The agency has been performing construction for several years to build an easy transfer point between the 7 train at 45 Road-Court House Square and the E, M and G trains at the Long Island City-Court Square station. The new passage would allow riders to access all trains without walking above ground, and would enable entrance to the Long Island City-Court Square station near 23rd Street.

While most passersby may assume the project isn’t complete, it is. Depending upon whom you ask, work has been finished for several weeks, or for five months — the MTA cites the former, straphangers the latter.

Michael Charney, a 7 train rider from Flushing, is furious that he has had to walk above ground in inclement weather only to just miss his train due to the added time. On his way down Jackson Avenue, day after day he walks past a barricaded entrance he could be using.

“Since November of 2010 that thing is literally wrapped in plastic. It’s done. It’s finished. So who’s dragging their feet on this? Why?” Charney asked. What makes matters worse, according to Charney, is that before construction began, there was an entrance to the E, M and G trains nearer to the 7 train that was open. The improvements actually made his commute worse.

According to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, the transfer is not yet open because part of it was built on land that belongs to Citi Corp. The transit authority has been unable to ink a memorandum of understanding with the bank, so the transfer remains under wraps. Ortiz could not discuss issues of contention, and the bank did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

Straphangers are not the only ones who have suffered from the construction. Businesses located behind the enclosed glass escalator have been rendered invisible from the street. Two of the restaurants are closed, while one, Fortune Cookie, placed angry signs in its window when scaffolding further buried it, Charney said.

However, the worst part of all this, according to the commuter, is that no one has even been able to use the transfer. “I have seen high rises dug in the ground and built in the three years this escalator has been under construction,” he said.

Charney complained to his councilman, Peter Koo (D-Flushing), and to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), in whose district the stations are located, to no avail. “Thousands of people use that transfer everyday,” Charney said, “There is no money that has to be put in to open it.”

On Tuesday evening, the 7 train was not running into Manhattan. Riders unfamiliar with the station had to get off at 45 Road-Court House Square and walk to the E, M and G trains. “Where’s the G train?” one of them asked, standing in front of the barricaded entrance. Upon learning the real entrance was down the block she muttered: “Unbelievable.”

Alun Wong, a rider traveling to Manhattan, said he too is frustrated by the walk. “It bothers me when it’s raining or snowing in the winter, and it’s not just me, it’s tons of people,” he said.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) said the community has been waiting for the station transfer for a long time. “It’s already a year late,” Gianaris said, recalling the estimated completion date. “We shouldn’t let bureaucratic inertia slow down infrastructure improvement.”

Read the full article here.