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MTA Brass bash - BK riders jeer fare increase

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In a raucous atmosphere reminiscent of an Isiah Thomas-coached New York Knicks game, hundreds of community members and dozens of elected officials from throughout the borough lambasted MTA board members over a flurry of proposed transit fare hikes and service cuts at a public hearing last week in downtown Brooklyn.

Nearly 200 speakers registered to speak at the hearing, held at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge (333 Adams Street), in order to share their testimony with MTA officials. Each time an MTA board member was introduced, the crowd showered him with Brooklyn cheers.

“The MTA needs to close its budget deficit, and the irony, so big you could drive an A train through it is that part of the solution is right next door to where I and concerned transit riders testified at the Brooklyn MTA hearings,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Everyone knows that when it comes to real estate, the secret is “location, location, location”–and instead of 370 Jay Street gathering dust, plans to occupy this eyesore could be scrapped, and the savings would bring in real revenue for the MTA.”

The MTA has proposed a base pay-per-ride MetroCard fare increase from $2 to $2.50 and the 30-day unlimited ride MetroCard from $81 to $103. Among the service and station changes affecting Brooklyn the MTA has proposed, include the elimination of the M line between Broad St. and Bay Parkway, the elimination of the Z line, as well as eliminating the B23, B25, B37, B39, B51, and B75.

During their testimony, several elected officials shouted out the names of buses and subway lines in their district that were being eliminated or having their weekend and night service reduced, to the cheers of pockets of community members throughout the crowd. Councilmember Vincent Gentile, whose district covers Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and parts of Bensonhurst, condemned the proposed elimination of the B37 bus, also known as the 3rd Avenue bus, and the elimination of the X27, X28, B4 and B16 buses on weekends.

“I’m realistic — I know the MTA can’t provide these services through sheer will. It takes money, and the funding of these bus routes, should they remain in place, needs to be secured. For too long I have suggested what I believe to be at least part of the solution, and I’ll suggest it again tonight: stop subsidizing Metro North and the Long Island Railroad with revenue generated by NYC transit fares and bridge tolls. Use the money that comes from the pockets of New York City residents to fund the buses that they need, and let those who ride Metro North and the Long Island Railroad support entirely the services they need.”

Community Board 14, representing Flatbush, Midwood and Kensington, submitted testimony opposing the B23 bus route, which provides the only service connecting the F and the Q trains.

“We believe that elimination of this service would be detrimental to the economic progress of our community and would cause a great burden to parents and children commuting to work and school, as well as to those who use it to get to a variety of cultural institutions and other services,” CB 14 Chair Alan Berk said.

Several members of the disabled community held the attention of the crowd throughout the night, speaking out against the proposal to increase the Access-a-Ride fare. Access-a-Ride users, who pay $2 now, could see as much as a 150 percent increase in fare costs, to $6 per ride.

“Promoting independence is part of my job,” Milagros Franco, an intake/ housing specialist with Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, said. “How can I promote independence when there’s a price tag for it. My clients are saying ‘how can I get a job if I can’t afford to pay for transit?’”

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