Businesses and MTA Negotiate Ad Campaign as 7 Train Suspensions Begin

By Jeanmarie Evelly on March 14, 2014 10:11am 

 The 7 train will be suspended in Long Island City for at least 13 weekends this year.
The 7 train will be suspended in Long Island City for at least 13 weekends this year.
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David Goldman/Getty Images

HUNTERS POINT — The MTA and business owners in Long Island City are hammering out details of a campaign to promote the neighborhood during a series of weekend service disruptions on the 7 train which have hampered trade since they began last week, according to local leaders.

The MTA announced earlier this year that it would suspend service on the 7 line between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square for 13 weekends between February and July for needed maintenance work, with more disruptions expected later in 2014.

Residents and local leaders — citing similar cuts to 7 train service in prior years — said it would devastate local businesses and made several demands of the MTA, asking for shuttle bus service directly to Manhattan and help promoting the neighborhood during the outages.

The MTA agreed last month to develop a free marketing campaign for Long Island City to help offset the effects of the service shutdowns, which started last weekend and will continue again this weekend.

The agency said Wednesday that it is looking to launch the promotion as soon as possible, according to a spokesman.

"We are still fully committed to working with Long Island City officials on a robust marketing campaign," spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. "We received their creative content Monday evening and we’ll work on materials that we will be able to show the group within the next day or two."

Sheila Lewandowski, director of the Chocolate Factory Theater, said planning for the campaign has been rocky because of a back-and-forth with the MTA over the details of the promotion.

Business owners met with the agency in February, where she said they were told to come up with images promoting the neighborhood that could be incorporated into a poster, but weren't given definitive answers about how much space they would have, how long the posters would be displayed and other details.

Lewandowski said they're also frustrated because they'd expected to get advertising space dedicated solely to promoting the neighborhood, but were later told their content would instead be included on a poster announcing the 7 train service diversions.

"Everything is different from what we thought they were offering us at the beginning," she said. "We are still trying to make it work."

Ortiz said the posters will contain both MTA service information and the Long Island City promotional material, and will be displayed on car cards on the trains and in subway stations.

Both City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and state Sen. Michael Gianaris released separate statements this week urging the MTA to better respond to the needs of their constituents.

"The least that the MTA could do is work actively with the community on the promises that they have made," Van Bramer said.

Business owners in Hunters Point say they're already feeling a hit from loss of local weekend train service.

"How do you make a whole audience disappear? Have the MTA schedule shut downs w/o adequate shuttle service!" Jackson Avenue comedy club The Creek and The Cave tweeted on Saturday

Jeff Blath, owner of Vernon Boulevard restaurant Alobar, said brunch on Saturday brought in about half as many customers as it usually does, and dinner service saw about 30 percent fewer diners, despite the day's nice weather.

"People that live here, they're going to want to get together with friends on a nice day, and that means going to Manhattan because their friends don’t want to come to Long Island City," because of the train service, he said. "It's not good."

The 7 train will be suspended again this weekend between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square from 2 a.m. on Saturday to 5 a.m. on Monday, according to the MTA's website.

Free shuttle buses will make all stops between Queensboro Plaza and Vernon Boulevard - Jackson Avenue station. Riders can take the E, G, F, N, Q, or R trains for service to other nearby stations.

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