LONG ISLAND CITY — The battle of the buses is kicking into high gear.
Queens residents and community leaders are saying the proposed waterfront bus route being explored by the MTA to increase service between Long Island City and Williamsburg boosts routes to Brooklyn but doesn't sufficiently serve Queens.
Members of Queens Community Board 2 say the plan to connect the underserved waterfront areas of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City is more of a boon to Brooklyn, and they would like to see the service expanded deeper into Queens.
"It looks like it's going to serve Brooklyn more than it's going to serve Long Island City, but it will still serve Long Island City," CB2 chairman Joseph Conley said at a board meeting last week, when MTA officials presented a slideshow of the plan.
Conley said the Board supports the proposal but would like to see the line extended to Queensboro Plaza, to connect with the 7, N and Q train lines. The route proposed by the MTA enters Long Island City from Brooklyn over the Pulaski Bridge and heads up 11th Street, only going as far north as 44th Drive before it turns east and heads down 21st Street.
But proponents say a connection at Queensboro Plaza would offer Long Island City commuters another transit option while ongoing track work has repeatedly disrupted local service on the 7 train line.
The 7 is down on weekends between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square for the next several months as construction crews install a new signal system, a project that the MTA says will continue for years. Riders in Hunters Point have to take shuttle buses on weekends in lieu of the train, and many say they don't come often enough, a problem that could potentially be solved by extending the waterfront bus route, CB2 said.
"Going to Queensboro Plaza would then eliminate the need for a shuttle bus when the 7 is going to be taken out, which is going to be still happening," said Sheila Lewandowski, a board member who also owns the Chocolate Factory Theatre on 49th Avenue, where she says the 7 train disruptions have hurt business.
The proposed bus route only runs through a small area of southern Long Island City; most of it is contained within Williamsburg and Greenpoint. MTA officials at the CB2 meeting said the line was originally designed to serve the burgeoning Brooklyn neighborhoods, and that the Long Island City expansion was considered later in the planning stages.
Conley said the board also wants to see a bus line that runs directly on the neighborhood's waterfront, something they've advocated for for years. One idea was a route that would run along Center Boulevard to serve residents of Queens West, a development of high-rise residential towers along the East River.
"The waterfront in Long Island City has no bus," Conley said.
The closest current bus route is the Q103, which operates two blocks in from the waterfront along Vernon Boulevard, but doesn't run on nights or weekends. The proposed new Brooklyn-Queens route would run a block east of that, even further inland.
The MTA will be seeking public comment on the proposal during the next few months, and a hearing will be held sometime in March, officials said. The bus is set to start running this fall.