Today’s news:

The Civic Scene: ‘Metrocard machines don’t call for help’

Civic association leaders who are members of the Queens Civic Congress held a petition drive earlier this month outside the Queens Plaza station in Long Island City to protest plans by the MTA to close more than 120 subway token booths across the city. At a press conference Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, Transport Workers Vice President Darlene Lawson, and several community leaders sad that replacing token clerks with MetroCard machines would jeopardize the safety of subway riders.

MetroCard machines don’t call an ambulance or call the police. Human beings do. We need real, live token clerks,” Ferrer said. Nolan complained that “the MTA board ought to think about the riding public first.” There was criticism of the MTA for failing to hold public hearings and for what they described as recklessly reducing mass transit service. It was felt that token booth clerks are the eyes and ears of the subway system helping people and reducing vandalism. It was noted that recently there was vandalism of MetroCard machines.

Queens Civic Congress leaders who were present were Executive Vice President Patricia Dolan (president of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association), Treasurer James Trent (Creedmoor Civic Association in Bellerose), Vice President and transportation chairwoman Tina Chan (Kew Forest Neighborhood Association in Forest Hills), Vice President Margo Hill (president, Southeast Queens Concerned Neighbors) and Founder Bob Harris (president of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association in Fresh Meadows).

Chan has been stressing that the MTA has a large budget surplus from the increased ridership, so cuts in service should not have to be made. She has been criticizing the MTA’s plan to take the clerks out of the booths and assign some to mezzanines and platforms as customer service representatives — she feels the riding public prefers to have transit people in a stationary booth where they can be quickly found in an emergency.

Dolman said the city wants seniors to use subway underpasses along Queens Boulevard to avoid accidents from the cars, trucks and buses found on Queens Boulevard, but seniors don’t want to walk under Queens Boulevard if there are no MTA workers in easily visible booths. The point was made that machines break down, cannot give the type of change which people may need, nor give travel or service information

The MTA meets monthly and can vote to restore token booths at any meeting — if people complain enough.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK

The good news is that the 2000 census enlisted neighborhood ethnic people and the count did show that Queens now has 2,229,379 people, up from about 1.9 million people in 1990. Anyone looking at the people in many neighborhoods can’t help seeing and hearing the many new energetic and hardworking people in Queens. Many newcomers are the leading students in our schools. Many adults are starting businesses and contributing to the growth of our economy.

The bad thing is that some Hispanic and Asian leaders and US Census Bureau officials feel that not everyone was counted. Acknowledging and correcting an undercount is important because the federal government provides money for schools, highways, transportation, daycare , school lunch programs and much more.

One problem is that illegal aliens don’t want to be counted because they are here illegally and subject to deportation by the INS. Two or tree families living in an apartment — with 8 to 10 men sleeping on mattresses on the floor of another apartment — can be invisible and thus not counted. Now Korean groups say that they were undercounted also because there were not enough forms in many locations or translators available. What is the truth?

Now there is arguing over statistics by all parties concerned. The outcome can mean a lot of money. We shall see what happens.

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