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Seniors slam elimination of Q74

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When the Q74 bus was axed by the MTA in June to help close a budget gap of about $800 million, many people were inconvenienced along the route, which ran from the Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike subway station to Queens College in Flushing.

But for senior citizens like Kew Gardens Hills residents Bea Chenensky and her friend Bettie, the change has turned them into prisoners of their own homes.

Bettie, who did not want to give her last name, is more than 80 years old, suffers from arthritis and recently underwent open-heart surgery. She said her life has been destroyed along with the Q74 bus line, which was once her lifeline.

“That’s my broomstick. I’ve ridden the buses all over. There was a time when I was able to go out. Now I’m really tied up. I’ve never been in the house so much, and it’s bad for you. I don’t like sitting home, I like to go to the [Pomonok Senior] Center, I had a class Monday mornings,” she said. “We need a bus, and we need one that has a schedule so we know they’re coming every day and what time they’re coming.”

It takes Bettie almost 20 minutes to walk less than a block from her home to Chenensky’s co-op, where the two met last week to air their grievances about the lack of transportation services in the area.

In July, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that a livery van service would replace the Q74, allowing residents along the route to pay $2 to ride in a van licensed by the city Taxi & Limousine Commission.

On Nov. 19, Chenensky tried taking the new van service from her home on Melbourne Avenue to the Pomonok Senior Center to attend a party.

“When he dropped me off, the van driver said they come by every half hour on the hour. So I said, ‘Fine.’ When I left the party, I waited for an hour where he said to go, and no van ever showed up going or coming either way, and there are no cabs or buses there,” she said. “So I had to slump all the way home. It took me an hour to walk from Kissena Boulevard to here.”

When she got home, she said she could barely move because the walk had affected her so greatly.

Bettie and Chenensky could take the Access-A-Ride shuttle, at a rate of nearly $50 per ride, but they cannot find the logic behind the Metropolitan Transportation Authority spending that much money for them to make a quick trip to the grocery store.

“If I even want to go a short way, I have to take Access-A-Ride, and it doesn’t pay,” Bettie said. “And it takes too long, I don’t want to wait, so I have to call my daughter or someone to drive me, but I can’t bother them. So there’s many times I’ve just had to learn to do without.”

Disabled people have also been terribly inconvenienced by the cuts to bus routes, since the vans that replaced them are non-handicapped-accessible, according to James Weisman, senior vice president and general counsel for the United Spinal Association.

Last month, the association; David Heard, a quadriplegic Jackson Heights resident who used to ride the Q74; and a disabled Brooklyn woman filed a class-action lawsuit against the TLC, saying that cutting service for disabled citizens but not the able-bodied is a form of illegal discrimination.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 6:14 pm, October 10, 2011
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