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Protesters fight boro bus cuts

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The MTA’s proposed cuts to bus service will cripple commuters across the borough, former City Councilman David Weprin warned Sunday as he urgedQueens residents to get their heads out of the sand and fight to save their commutes.

Protesting outside the Q76 bus stop on Francis Lewis Boulevard and Hillside Avenue Sunday, Weprin, the former chair of the Council’s Finance Committee, joined civic leaders and transit union officials in getting the word out to all those who will be affected by the cuts.

If the Metropolitan Transportation Authority follows through with its plan to drop several lines and cutting weekend service on the Q76 — which runs from College Point to Jamaica — it will force Queens commuters to struggle and have a ripple effect in the rest of the borough, according Weprin.

“We don’t have enough bus lines. We don’t have enough subway lines,” he said. “It will force people who go into Manhattan to drive into Manhattan.”

Weprin, who is running for the state Assembly seat vacated by his brother, City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Hollis), acknowledged that the transit agency has had to deal with budget problems but said it unnecessarily targeted straphangers to solve its financial problems.

Proposals to charge students for MetroCards and eliminate dozens of bus lines as well as the W and Z subway lines, were wrong and unethical, according to Weprin.

One of the bus lines included on the list for elimination is the Q74, which runs from Kew Gardens to Flushing. The line serves thousands of commuters including Queens College, elementary school and high school students every day.

Several senior centers, libraries and other popular venues are also on the Q74 route.

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said residents should speak out against the greed of the MTA before they lose access to their needed bus routes.

“Last year, we were told by the MTA that their cuts would happen if we did not give them a bailout package,” he said. “To stand here today and have the same cuts are appalling.”

Other cuts affecting Queens included eliminating the Q75, which runs from Oakland Gardens to Jamaica; shutting down overnight service on the Q30, which runs from Little Neck to Jamaica; and ending weekend service on the Q31, which runs from Bayside to Jamaica, and the Q79, which runs on Little Neck Parkway.

Daneek Miller, president of the union that represents bus operators, mechanics and cleaners in Queens, said the MTA’s plan would also increase unemployment in the borough. Miller said hundreds of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 members depend on the service to provide for their families.

“It’s been an attack on labor and an attack on working people,” Miller said of the cuts.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 5:44 pm, October 10, 2011
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