2010-03-03 / Front Page

Rally To Save W Train

BY JASON D. ANTOS

(L. to r.): City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), 36th Assembly District candidate Aravella Simotas and Community Board 1 Member Tony Meloni join with commuters in Astoria and Long Island City to protest MTA plans to eliminate the W train line. Photo Jason D. Antos (L. to r.): City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), 36th Assembly District candidate Aravella Simotas and Community Board 1 Member Tony Meloni join with commuters in Astoria and Long Island City to protest MTA plans to eliminate the W train line. Photo Jason D. Antos Commuters in Astoria and Long Island City joined City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Aravella Simotas, candidate for the 36th Assembly District seat, in a rally March 2 at the 30th Avenue and 31st Street stop of the W elevated train line to protest the line’s proposed elimination. The Metropolitan Transit Authority reported late last year that it plans to discontinue the W train, along with other services across the five boroughs, in order to help alleviate its budget deficit of more than $300 million.

“Eliminating the W has no logical explanation,” Vallone said. “It’s time for the MTA to stop the bureaucracy and to stop targeting neighborhoods with huge populations which are already under-serviced.”

It is feared that removal of the W train will result in long delays between the N trains that will be the only line left on the route and increase the number of off-peak subway riders.

“The MTA would be depriving a community that has so many residents and young professionals a way of getting into Manhattan so that they can go to work,” Simotas said.

In the past several years, neighborhoods in Astoria and Long Island City have witnessed a housing and business boom, including new luxury condominiums, co-ops, rental apartment buildings and hotels. Eliminating the W line would have a devastating effect on the burgeoning area, officials and community leaders said.

“You cannot remove what is the life blood of this community,” Community Board 1 member Tony Meloni said.

A large number of business owners use the W line to get to establishments that are located along 31st Street underneath the line itself. Many shoppers, tourists and guests of area hotels frequent the neighborhood because of its accessibility to a subway line that runs directly into Manhattan.

Without the use of the W train, commuters will have to drive into Manhattan, increasing the amount of automobiles on the road. A recent air quality study of Western Queens yielded an unfavorable result, which the line’s removal would exacerbate. The MTA plans to bring express bus service into the area in order to help accommodate the demand; the potential effect of the buses on air quality was not discussed at the rally.

“How can the MTA expect us to improve the environment?” Vallone asked. “This will only put more cars on the road and will undermine our efforts to improve the air quality of our neighborhood and city.”

Vallone is also calling for an upgrade to the elevated train line with the installation of sound mufflers and an elevator for the disabled.

“The MTA has failed to take into account what would happen if the W train was removed,” Vallone Jr. said. “You must consider the overcrowding of station platforms and equipment breakdowns.”

“Eliminating one of the most heavily used subway routes in the city of New York is not the solution,” Simotas concurred.

“New Yorkers rely on subway lines like the W to get to work, to job interviews and to doctors' appointments,” Assemblymember Michael Gianaris declared in a statement. Simotas hopes to succeed Gianaris, while Gianaris will run to replace retiring state Senator George Onorato in the 12th state senate district. “This is a difficult time when people can least afford to deal with service cuts and the elimination of entire subway lines. It's time for the MTA to get its own financial house in order before punishing the average straphanger over and over again.”

Additional city-wide service cuts will include the elimination of weekend express bus service with low ridership, along with reduced Access-A-Ride service. The Cross Bay Bridge toll rebate program for residents of the Rockaways is also scheduled for elimination. The MTA also plans to reduce and ultimately cut free subway and bus MetroCards for students in New York City public schools.

“Parents will not be able to afford to send their kids to school,” 36th Assembly District Leader Costa Constantinides said. “It is a huge disgrace.”

The next in a series of MTA public hearings is scheduled for March 4 at 6 p.m. at the Fashion Institute of Technology located on 7th Avenue at 27th Street in Manhattan. The hearing scheduled for Queens took place at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing on Tuesday night.

For more information, visit www.straphangers.org. To sign the Straphangers Campaign’s petition, visit :

http://council.nyc.gov/html/action_center/mt a.shtm¦

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