First day of ‘Summer of Hell’ project has routine feel — may just be season of inconvenience

LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens — The months-long rail repairs dubbed the "Summer of Hell" by Gov. Andrew Cuomo felt more like a summer of inconvenience, at least on the first workday of the extensive repair and replacement project.

Whether or not the situation will be harder for commuters to bear as the track work continues remains to be seen, but rail passengers had their own assessments of the situation, of which they wanted the people running the MTA to take heed.

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the first compromised commuter workday was how its changes proved positive for some passengers.

"In this case," said Long Island Railroad commuter Tim Searvant, "[my commute is] easier because I don't have to go all the way across town in the afternoon."

He was one of a number of people who spoke with PIX11 News who were following the MTA's recommendation of not riding the LIRR all the way in to or out from Penn Station, but using the last above ground LIRR station, Hunterspoint Avenue, as a terminus instead.

From there, passengers could connect to the No. 7 subway train.

"It's not as bad as [they] think it is," said a commuter from central Long Island, but, added with a laugh, "I didn't go to Penn Station," where the problems could be worse, he implied.

One theme kept repeating throughout the commute on Monday, during both evening and morning rush. "A lot more people," said John Schmahl, a passenger at Jamaica station, which is another transfer point to the subway. "Definitely more people than usual."

The complaints were few, and the ones that did occur were mild.

Nonetheless, the head of the MTA, Chairman Joe Lhota, is not running a victory lap, by any means. He's looking toward the end of this project.

"I just want to get though today and actually get through this week," Lhota told PIX11 News in an interview Monday morning. "Then we'll worry about what happens here" after the repairs are done, he said.

Also looking at what conditions will be like through the end of the project are riders.

"It's beautiful today," said a woman about to board an outbound train at Hunterspoint Monday evening. "The cameras are all here, the politicians are out," she said.

"When the cameras go away, the politicians go away, let's see what happens then."