MTA — April 9, 2010 4:30 — 0 Comments
MTA Hearing: Desperation In Paradise
Comment Subscribe Subscribe
In what many see as a futile attempt to fight proposed service cuts and new rate hikes to public transportation, Bronxites turned up to give a “Bronx cheer,” to board members of the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (NYC MTA.)
Only a few hundred Bronxites turned out for the only public hearing scheduled for the borough, held at the Paradise Theater on the Grand Concourse, on Wednesday, March 3.
Jay H. Walder, the new Chairman and CEO at the MTA and his fellow board members were heckled throughout the evening, with many questioning how a $400 million budget gap in December has ballooned to $800 million in March.
Testifying at the hearing, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., stated, “Bronx residents face the prospect of big changes on eight bus routes… residents of outlying neighborhoods with the most need for service would find themselves even more isolated.”
Diaz said the elimination of the Bx18, “will leave thousands of residents of Highbridge, Morris Heights and the West Bronx… without an alternative transportation service,” before defending the 200 daily riders of the Bx14 who travel to Country Club from Parkchester in the Northeast section of the borough.
Regarding the proposed eventual ending of the free student MetroCard, Diaz vowed, “I vehemently oppose such a measure. this action would negatively impact over 550,000 students.” Diaz added, “We cannot balance any budget on the backs of our children.”
Defending the isolated residents of the East Bronx, Kenneth Kearns, the District Manager of Community Board #10, explained, “From our perspective, the complete elimination of the Bx 14, serving Country Club and Pelham Bay, is the most troublesome.”
With the proposed elimination of express bus service to residents of City Island, and buses rerouted affecting many of the 500 students of the Villa Maria Academy in Country Club, which Kearns called , “a geographically isolated community,” Kearns added, “The agency has not indicated they will increase the number of Bx29 busses,” that would get folks to the hub at Pelham Bay.
After the hearing, Senator Jeff Klein issued a statement, which read in part, “I stand with the hundreds of Bronx residents who voiced their concern and outrage at Wednesday night’s MTA hearing.”
Klein said the proposed cuts, “would cripple communities and leave students, working people and senior citizens stranded.” Klein’s statement concluded, “I call on the MTA to reevaluate the poorly thought out plan and honor their goal of providing transportation service that New Yorkers can rely on.”
Outside the Paradise, Pelham Parkway resident Jacqueline Lutnick charged, “These are scare tactics that the MTA is using to get more money out of us. There’s a lot of duplication on bus routes in the Bronx… that can be cut, but they’re cutting routes that have just one access point.”
Lutnick’s son Louis added, “It’s our right to go to school, that’s guaranteed to us and I think in a way they’re adding a toll for us that we will have to pay in order to go to school and that’s completely unfair.”
Lutnik calculated it would cost $22.50 a week or about $1,000 a year. Asked if he had the money, the teen replied, “No, of course not.”
Morrisania mother Felicia Fields expects a double whammy, as she reveals, “I’m a station agent that could possibly be laid off,” explaining a recent letter stated her job could be eliminated in as little as 60 days.
Fields is also doing her best raising five kids, including two special ed students. Fields explained, “My niece and my nephew basically lost their mother, they lost their house and they lost their dog and now they’re going to lose their bus passes.. what do I tell them?”
Fields, who works as a “floater,” who moves from station to station, added, “These are all concerns that must be addressed and they’re not being addressed in there.”
A resident of Morris Heights who declined to give her name, offered, “The MTA must realize that they cannot fool the public by saying they’re going to end free Metro-Cards for the kids, they’re playing with our intelligence. they want to cut bus lines so they put up this big smoke screen.”
A second hearing the same night at the Brooklyn Museum resulted in a melee in which four people were arrested. the trouble apparently escalated after a nonscheduled speaker provoked a physical response by MTA police. Police reported that three women and a man were arrested in the scuffle.
The MTA Board is expected to vote on the service cuts after the nine scheduled hearings have concluded.