Skillman Avenue in Long Island City, between Pearson Place and 49th Avenue is a fairly desolate spot. The Sunnyside Yards “Yard A” dominates the northern side of the street. On the other side of the vast rail road complex is Jackson Avenue and the Court Square Subway station, the Arris Lofts, and the brand new Pearson Court Square building with its roof top windmills.
A block south, you’ll find the sewage choked waters of Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary, which provided a maritime link to the Degnon Terminal industrial park (which has been discussed in this post). Skillman Avenue forms one of the borders of the Degnon Terminal, and at the corner of Pearson Place and Skillman Avenue – the tracks of the LIRR’s Montauk Cutoff offered locomotive access to the Degnon Terminal railway tracks. This spur is in place to this very day, and there are rails sticking up out of the modern day asphalt which run up elevations to elevated tracks that connected Sunnyside Yard with the LIRR tracks which run along Newtown Creek, through Maspeth and then towards Fresh Pond. If curious about such things – go here.
That’s a short history of the site, and you won’t believe what’s going on here now.
The MTA announced that during its 12-weekend shutdown of the 7 train, it will not shut down 7 Line service to Queens the weekend of May 17th and 18th. The MTA listened to concerns from Long Island City residents and business owners, who are struggling with the shutdown, and decided to keep the train running for one important weekend in LIC.
Here’s what’s happening: on Saturday, May 17th, the LIC Partnership is holding LIC Springs!, a free, community block festival on Vernon Boulevard in partnership with the city’s Weekend Walks program. And the LIC Arts Open – a nine-day festival – will stretch through that weekend. There’s also the LIC Flea & Food, the new Astoria Flea & Food at Kaufman Astoria Studios, and the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Overall, a ton of events happening with public transportation to access them. After the weekend, the shutdown will last until July 21st.
This Thursday, politicians, Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives will host a town hall meeting for the G train shutdown this summer. As reported earlier, the G train will not run between Long Island City and Greenpoint in order to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Shutdown dates span between July 6th to September 1st with shuttle service running instead. The Town Hall will serve as a brainstorming session for making the five-week period “as painless as possible.” It’ll be held in Greenpoint, at 176 Java Street.
Man, can LIC subway riders catch a break? On top of the 7 train weekend suspensions, the MTA will shut down G Train service between Long Island City and Nassau Avenue for five straight weeks this summer. The shutdown dates span between July 6th to September 1st. LIC Post reports, “The MTA said that it needs to shut down service in order to repair damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. The tunnel that connects Long Island City with Greenpoint was flooded with 3 million gallons of salt water at the height of the storm, according to the MTA.” The MTA plans to provide shuttle service during the five-week period.
Over the past weekend, the MTA suspended the 7 train for the first of 12 weekends through July 21st. Queens Courier spoke to members of the LIC community on how the shutdown affects them. Residents had a hard time traveling to and from Manhattan during the weekend, with a 10 to 15 minute trip taking close to three hours. And local businesses like Alobar and The Creek and The Cave noticed a distinct decline in customers. A group of business owners plan to promote the neighborhood and dedicate street team efforts to bring people into LIC during the weekend shutdowns. The MTA is also trying to work on a marketing campaign to help the community, but it’s unclear how that will play out. According to the Courier: “Business owners say the MTA has told them that they are not being given advertising space, but instead can add images and words to the disclosure notices located on subway cars.”
Unfortunately, there are even more shutdowns to expect after this round is over: the MTA stated there are nine tentative weekend service suspensions scheduled for August through November.
Now that Queens is getting real-time bus arrival — a GPS system that allows bus riders to use their computer, cell phone or smartphone to get information about bus times — there’s an app to go with the good news! Bus New York City for iPhone is an app that pin-points the next bus on the map and gives riders an estimated time of arrival. The app also shows line status, potential disruptions, official MTA route maps, full offline bus schedules and favorite stops. The app won the MTA AT&T App Quest Awards in December 2013. It costs $2.99 through the Apple Store.
Next month — on March 9th, to be exact! — the MTA will install Bus Time in Queens and Brooklyn. According to the MTA website, “MTA Bus Time uses Global Positioning System (GPS) hardware and wireless communications technology to track the real-time location of buses. This innovation lets you use your computer, cell phone, smartphone or other tech device to get information about when the next bus will arrive at your stop, even if you are still at home, the office, shopping, or dining.” Transportation Nation writes that this very useful service launched on Staten Island in January 2012, then came to the Bronx later that year, then finally to Manhattan in October 2013. Now all 5,500 city buses have the GPS hardwire necessary to transmit their positions. The countdown ’til March 9th begins — can’t wait!
Corona Yards is the largest trainyard in Queens devoted entirely to the care and maintenance of subway cars, servicing equipment used on the Flushing #7 line, which was built in stages beginning in 1915. The line used tunnels under the East River that were originally meant to carry trolley cars belonging to William Steinway’s New York and Queens Railroad Company, which ran extensively in Queens but was never expanded to Manhattan. Eventually, the trolley line shuttered in 1937 and was replaced by bus lines. The Flushing Line was extended to Corona by 1925 and to Main Street, Flushing in 1928. There has been periodic talk of extending the line to the city line via Northern Boulevard, but it’s been just talk.
In this photo we see three generations of subway cars that have been used on the line since 1964. At left is a new R-188 car, part of a new fleet that will be introduced on the Flushing Line gradually in 2014 and 2015. Uniquely among subway lines, Flushing Line trainsets use 11 cars instead of the 10 cars used on most other subway lines (though the G train in Brooklyn and Queens uses just four cars).
In the center is an R-33 car, introduced on the line during the World’s Fair held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for two years, 1964-1965; the now-demolished Shea Stadium also opened in 1964. In the Fair years the R-33s had a two-tone blue paint job, with World’s Fair signage. Some cars had states’ names on the sides of the cars; some states that had exhibits at the Fair chose to purchase space on the cars on which their names would be listed. R-33s were the workhorses of the Flushing Line until the early 2000s. In their later years, a dark red paint scheme lent them the nickname “Redbirds.”
On the right is the R-62A, introduced on IRT lines in 1984 and gradually becoming a part of the Flushing Line beginning in 2002. The R-188s will eventually force them into retirement.
A few days ago, the redoubtable MTA announced that their tradition of presenting vintage Subway trains during the holiday season will continue in 2013. There will also be vintage buses running on 42nd street in the city, but let’s face it, fellow Queensicans — we don’t go there on the weekends unless we absolutely have to. Why would you, if you live in a place as great as Queens?
The “Nostalgia Special,” as MTA calls it, will be running along the M line between Queens and Manhattan again this year during the first four Sundays in December and offers a ride on trains which can date back as far as the 1930′s.
The MTA just finished an $8,500,000 renovation project at the Queens Village Long Island Rail Road station. Queens Courier reports that improvements include two new heavy-duty elevators, new signage, railings, lighting, and a fire alarm system. The MTA also rehabilitated the platform waiting room, repainted the building and added a new shelter shed. Finally, they installed bird abatement devices, drainage and erosion control and security cameras. The current station building first opened in 1924. You can see lots of photos of the station renovation here.