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Queens residents lash out at MTA over proposed cuts, fare hike

It was Queens straphangers’ turn to let the MTA know what they thought of plans to raise fares and cut service on buses and subways and they gave MTA board members an earful.

The occasion was the second of eight public hearings the MTA is required to conduct before fares can be raised and took place the evening of Jan. 20 at the Sheraton LaGuardia Hotel in Flushing.

Those who nearly filled the hearing room ranged from a college law school dean to transit activists, those in wheelchairs to plain citizens, but none was louder than a delegation from the Rockaways.

They displayed placards that read “No Tolls,” in reference to a Metropolitan Transportation Authority proposal to restore a toll that the protesters said was unique in the city and would force Rockaway residents to pay to attend church, go to the post office or buy groceries.

They gave their leaders, including state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) and others representing the Rockaways screaming, shouting ovations again and again.

Speakers used words like “shame” and “outrage” to describe an MTA plan to more than double the cost of Access-A-Ride, a service for those too disabled or feeble to use subways or buses, accusing transit officials of picking on the poorest and most helpless.

City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) implored the MTA board not to cast what he called an undue burden on the poor of the city, but ended by saying he expected his words were “falling on deaf ears.”

Michelle Anderson, dean of the CUNY School of Law, appealed to the MTA not to eliminate the Q74 bus, which she called “the sole direct link between the New York City subway system and the CUNY School of Law, as well as Queens College.”

Several speakers assailed the MTA for holding the hearing on Inauguration Day.

“This is un-American,” said one speaker.

MTA Executive Director Elliot Sander has said the agency would implement the so-called doomsday plan only if it gets no financial help from the state Legislature.

The drastic service cuts and fare increases of as much as 23 percent were announced because the MTA faces a $1.2 billion budget gap.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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