2000-07-26 / Editorials

No. 7 Line Makes The Grade

As anyone who travels by subway in New York City could tell, subway service is a mixed bag. Cars are cleaner and passengers are less likely to face a breakdown in subway service. On the other hand, cars are more crowded, trains arrive more irregularly and announcements are poorer in quality.

The subway line receiving the best rating from the Straphangers Campaign, as it has for the fourth year in a row, was the No. 7 Flushing line, the "International Express." The line, which runs from Times Square, Manhattan, to Main Street, Flushing, has more scheduled service, riders have a better chance of getting a seat during peak periods, cars break down less often than average, and in-car announcements are more audible and comprehensible.

Besides its rating as best in the city, we feel the No. 7 has other qualities that make it one of the best transportation bargains around. "It's like the United Nations" a friend of ours said, and he's right. He boards the train in Flushing, a neighborhood that only a few years ago appeared to be dying on the vine. Now, thanks to a shot in the arm in the form of an influx of Asian-Americans, Flushing has blossomed into a center of Asian culture.

By the time the train gets to the Junction Boulevard station the linguistic and cultural landscape has shifted to Latino. A little further down the line toward Manhattan the International Express passes through Jackson Heights neighborhoods where Indian and Pakistani immigrants have chosen to make their homes. Still further in, Sunnyside and Woodside are havens for many people of Irish descent. There are still more pockets of homogenous ethnicity scattered all along the No. 7 line. Several of the line's next-to-last stops in Queens are in Long Island City, a neighborhood where Greek is still spoken on many streets and the domes of Orthodox churches rise on the skyline. Relics of the Germans, Italians and Irish who preceded the Greeks remain, as do remnants of their predecessors, the Astors, Steinways and Dutch Rikers. All of them came to America, New York City and the neighborhoods through which the Flushing line passes to make new lives for themselves in a new land. They still speak their native tongue, but they map out their futures in English.

A while back a certain baseball player made some disparaging remarks about the people who ride the No. 7 line. While he didn't say anything that wasn't true, his interpretation of the facts is faulty. Yes, take the No. 7 line and you may find yourself sitting next to someone with purple hair, a single mother with four children and someone who just got out of jail. At the line's Manhattan terminus, as, indeed at any stop along its length, it is possible to walk the streets and not hear a word of English. What our ball-playing friend misses is the interpretation of the facts. The person with purple hair may very well be an artist on the way to arrange an exhibition of his works at the P.S. 1 Center for Contemporary Art in Long Island City. The single mother with four children is quite possibly on her way to a meeting with school officials to see about getting a child into a talented and gifted program where his abilities can be nurtured and put to their best use. The muscular individual may, indeed, have just gotten out of jail, and he may be on his way to a job where he can put his past mistakes behind him and enter into a law-abiding and productive future. The people walking the streets around Times Square may, indeed, speak English, albeit with an accent, indicating their mastery of two languages. Each and every one is an asset to this country.

The line may not reach a 95 percent rating in all six measures of service that make up Straphangers Campaign criteria. But it comes close and we have every reason to think the score will be the same, if not higher, the next time around. On the Flushing line, all things are possible.

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