HUNTERS POINT — MTA officials and Queens representatives are set to meet Thursday to discuss planned weekend shutdowns on the 7 train line this year, which drew fire from Long Island City residents and leaders, who say that the move will devastate businesses in the neighborhood.
Service on the line will halt between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square for 13 weekends between the end of the February and July for maintenance and signal work, the MTA announced last month, with more closures expected for the second half of the year.
Restaurant owners in the neighborhood are fearful the shutdowns will deal a crushing blow to business in the neighborhood.
"I talk to everyone in the neighborhood when I can — it really seems like, across the board, it's going to be devastating," she said.
Queens officials are expected to meet with the MTA to discuss the service disruptions Thursday afternoon at the MTA's office in Manhattan, and Trent said she and a handful of other local business owners plan to station themselves outside to hand out fliers.
The meeting is not open to the public.
"We're going to go form a receiving line outside the building to say 'thank you' to everyone for meeting, and to remind everybody of what we want," she said.
Local leaders and elected officials have offered several suggestions for the MTA, including repeated requests for bus service from Hunters Point directly to Manhattan through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, subsidizing East River Ferry rides and increasing weekend service on the neighboring N and M lines.
They've also asked the MTA to help Long Island City businesses develop a marketing and advertising campaign to offset the loss of business expected by the service closures.
"What are they going to do to help small businesses survive these amazing amounts of weekends?" City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said.
The neighborhood has experienced the same service disruptions repeatedly over the last few years, as the MTA has continued to work on a $550 million major capital improvement project to replace the 7 line's old signaling system.
"I think our small business owners have been incredibly resilient and survived these past closures, but they're worried they're not going to be able to survive this one," Van Bramer said. "It's too many weekends."
The MTA has said that the 7 train shutdowns planned for 2014 are necessary for the signal system upgrades — known as Communications-Based Train Control, or CBTC, which it says will bring more reliable train service and things like countdown clocks to the 7 line — as well as other needed work, like reconstruction of the Steinway Tube under the East River.
"We understand the impact that this vital work will have on the community but we also understand the impact if this work is not done and we let the No. 7 line go into a state of disrepair or are not able to absorb increasing ridership through the installation of CBTC," a spokesman for the agency said.
"We look forward to what we hope will be a productive meeting to discuss ways we can mitigate how our customers and the community are impacted during this work."
State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who will also be attending Thursday's meeting, said he's hoping the MTA will take up some of the community's suggestions.
"The work may need to get done, but the community should not be disregarded," he said.