MTA Service Cuts Protested
“Save Our W train!” was the cry from protesters as they greeted subway commuters at the Ditmars Boulevard station in Astoria at about 8 a.m. on January 5. The early morning protest, led by City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), consisted of some 30 angry citizens and civic leaders of Astoria and Long Island City who are concerned about the MTA’s plan to discontinue service on the W line. Along with the removal of the W train, the MTA wants to end G train service to Forest Hills and extend the Q to Astoria only on weekends.
“It’s going to make my commute a lot more difficult,” Jeremiah Frei-Pearson, a staff attorney for Children’s Rights, said. “The economy is doing really bad and this move by the MTA is not positive. People need this train to go to work and make a living. It’s vital for people’s livelihood.”
“The MTA has not been serving our community or our city properly for a long time. They’re an inefficient bureaucracy and need to get their priorities in order.” Vallone said.
The public protest was sparked by an MTA proposal made in December to cut service on trains and busses throughout New York City. Many fear these MTA cuts will lead to more time delays and conflicting schedules, and will leave many commuters stranded.
“The MTA is looking to scare us,” Assemblymember Michael N. Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “The city makes us pay more taxes each year to keep trains like the W line running. And now, despite heavy taxes, the MTA has lied to us and they are threatening to cut our services.”
Another major concern is the threat of eliminating free MetroCards for students. Many families cannot afford to pay for a daily subway ride for their children and this has students and parents outraged.
“I’ve got two kids who need the MTA card to get to school,” Vallone said. “This is something that concerns all of us, no matter who you are.”
“Parents are going to have to look their children in the eye and say I cannot afford to send you to school,” Ahmed Jamil, president of the Muslim American Society of Queens, said. District Leaader Costa Constantinides also joined the protesters.
The MTA plans to make numerous cuts to its bus schedules as well, including the total elimination of six routes in Brooklyn, four in The Bronx and six in Manhattan. In Queens, three major routes: the Q56, with service to Jamaica, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, the Q74, with service to Kew Gardens and the Q75, with service to Fresh Meadows are all slated for termination. Limited service will be provided on such busy routes as the Q26 to Flushing, the Q84 to St. Albans and the Q14 and Q76 to Whitestone and College Point.
“We need more trains and better service, not cuts,” Vallone said. For the MTA to grant generous raises while decimating services is completely irresponsible and inexcusable. Businesses were told that if they dug even deeper and paid even more taxes, in the form of a payroll tax, service cuts would not happen. Well, the MTA lied. Here we are less than a year later and the MTA wants both the higher taxes and the cuts to service to Astoria residents, our kids and our disabled.”
For more information about the MTA’s proposed cuts and to sign a council petition protesting them, visit http://council.nyc.gov/html/action_center/mta.shtml. Vallone, Gianaris and other activists present also suggested that concerned individuals join the New York City Council and the Straphangers Campaign; contact the MTA and urge the Authority to find alternative ways to prevent the cuts and ensure open public process by phone at 212-878-7469 or via e-mail at http://www.mta.info/faqs.htm; contact Governor David Paterson at http://www.state.ny.us.governor.contact/index.html and let him know what transit service means to you, and most important, according to Vallone, don’t let the MTA pass these cuts without public input. Mass transit riders should attend the MTA hearings, the dates of which will be announced, and tell the MTA board how the proposals will affect them personally.