May 22, 2018 By Tara Law
The 30th and 36th Avenue (N/W) stations in Astoria are still on schedule to reopen by the end of June after months of controversy, an MTA spokesperson said Monday.
Owners of businesses near the stations, who have complained that the project has cut into their profits, say that they are cautiously optimistic that the stations will reopen on time after the seven-month closure.
At the same time, the business owners warn that the subway closures have driven some shops and restaurants out of business, and that businesses near the 39th Avenue and Broadway stations— which are set to close in July for seven months— will soon be in danger.
The MTA closed the 30th and 36th Avenue subway stations in October as part of an $150 million overhaul of four N/W line stations, which includes structural and cosmetic repairs.
Local residents, politicians and business owners have criticized the project since the stations closed last fall, saying that the renovations have diverted customers and inconvenienced commuters without instituting meaningful changes that will benefit the public, such as service improvements and elevators.
Frank Arcabascio, the owner of Redken Saloon Salon on 30th Avenue and the head of the 30th Avenue Business Association, said that he has gained confidence in the MTA’s ability to finish the project on time because MTA representatives have held a conference call with 30th Avenue business owners every Wednesday at 11 a.m.
“The first thing we ask every week— we ask, is it on time? Is it on schedule?” Arcabascio said. “They’ve always said yes.”
Councilmember Costa Constantinides, who has been outspoken about the impact of the subway closures from the beginning, emphasized the importance of the subways opening on time.
“For too long our local business community has suffered without this vital infrastructure,” he said in a statement. “I have been in constant communication with the MTA about the urgent need to re-open this station in a timely fashion. Our community expects this project to be completed on time and I will be holding MTA accountable for living up to their promises.”
Roseann McSorley, the owner of Katch Gastropub and Eatery on Newtown Avenue, said that she is looking forward to end of the project, which she says has cut her business’s profits by 30 to 40 percent since the 30th Avenue station closed.
McSorley and Arcabascio were among the business owners who were most critical of the project shortly after it began. They co-founded the group “30th Avenue Blind Eye” with other local business owners in February to put pressure on the MTA to help support businesses threatened by the closure.
However, McSorley and Arcabascio both agree that the MTA has convinced them in their weekly meetings that the project will finish on time.
“We’ve been very clear that if they have any delay at all, they have to let us know,” McSorley said.
Both are also appreciative that the MTA launched an advertising campaign to help promote 30th Avenue businesses. The campaign, which runs with the tagline “Experience one of NYC’s Best Kept Secrets – 30th Ave, Astoria Queens,” has been spotted at MTA’s interactive kiosks and on the MTA’s social media channels.
Not all locals, however, feel appeased by the promotion. An MTA Tweet for the campaign on Twitter attracted a slew of angry messages.
“This is a joke right?” wrote user @planelife62. “You know that station has been shut down for months so politicians and contractors can rob the people? No handicap access either? It’s the local residents and businesses that are suffering you fools.”
Other residents worry that problems with the MTA’s subway renovations are only beginning.
The 39th Avenue and Broadway Stations are set to close this July. Additionally, the Astoria Boulevard station is scheduled to undergo a 29-month renovation starting this June that will require the station to close for nine months later in the project. The Ditmars Boulevard station has also been undergoing a 14-month renovation since April, although the station has remained open.
“They’re all going to be experiencing the same thing we’ve been experiencing,” McSorley said. “They’ve got to get ahead of it.”