After an hour of pleading from the public followed by discussion among themselves, the MTA board today approved perhaps the most extensive service cuts in the history of the transit system.
The board voted 11-2 to go ahead with the plan that includes shutting down two subway lines and numerous bus lines as well as layoffs within the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and many subway station agents.
Norman Seabrook of the Bronx and Allen Cappelli of Staten Island voted against carrying out the cutbacks.
Seabrook said he believed the MTA had not exhausted the search for a way out of its financial straits.
Possibly the most sensitive part of the cutbacks — abolition of free MetroCards for 600,000 schoolchildren — was not taken up by the board. The subject is to be decided at some point before the cutbacks go into effect in early summer.
The theme of resignation but reluctance to proceed with the cuts ran through comments from board members prior to the vote.
“There will be no help for us and we should face it,” said Andrew Saul of Westchester County. “Not from the city, not from the state.”
Board member Nancy Shevell said organized labor must shoulder part of the responsibility in helping the MTA dig out of its financial abyss.
That brought jeers and catcalls from union members in the audience.
“What kind of work do you do?” one spectator shouted.
The cuts are the result of the MTA’s $800 million budget deficit.
Prior to the vote, dozens of members of the public, including MTA employees, implored the board not to carry out the cuts. Several subway station agents slated for layoffs — some mothers of small children — asked how secure stations will be without the agents.
“This is a dark day for mass transit,” said MTA board member Andrew Albert. “This is going to affect the New York way of life.”
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledge
©2010 Community News Group
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