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MTA to close token booths at 9 boro sites

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Despite legislation, lawsuits and protests, transit officials will shut down nine Queens subway fare booths Sunday in a retrenchment the Metropolitan Transportation Authority contends will save $6 million over three years.

The Queens booths are part of 45 citywide to be shuttered after the Transit Authority posted notices beneath headlines that said “When the part-time booth at this station closes August 17, 2003, you can do the following:”

The notices and pamphlets explain the use of floor-to-ceiling turnstiles, intercom systems enabling straphangers to talk to agents at stations that are still in operation and MetroCard vending machines.

The Queens booths to be closed are: Woodhaven Blvd. (J), Hudson St. (A), Rockaway Blvd. (A), 111th St. (A), 63rd Drive (G), 67th Ave. (G), Sutphin Blvd. (F), Parsons Blvd. (F) and Vernon-Jackson (Q).

The remaining stations on the closing list — 33rd St. (7), 80th St. (A) and Woodhaven Blvd. (V and R) — are to be shut down by the end of the year but with no specific date announced so far.

Transit officials have insisted the closings will have no effect on safety since each station involved will still have an operating fare booth, although in most cases, the open booth is a great distance from the closed one.

Transport Workers Union Local 100 still has a lawsuit pending to block the closings and the state Legislature passed a bill to delay the shutdowns for three, but Gov. George Pataki vetoed it.

Transit activists led by the Straphangers Campaign have consistently condemned the booth closings and in public hearings prior to the MTA’s decision to raise transit fares from $1.50 to $2, protests against shutting booths were, in some cases, more vociferous than those against a fare hike.

Those testifying at a Feb. 19 public hearing at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens told of token clerks who acted quickly to help apprehend killers and rapists and said the clerks were essential as a bulwark against rising crime underground.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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