Friday, June 18, 2010

Pols, Union Leaders Decry Bus Service Cuts by Michael Cusenza -Queens Chronicle

Read original...

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, civic and union leaders and representatives of several elected officials Thursday rallied outside Borough Hall on Queens Boulevard to protest impending service cuts to several bus routes.

According to Daneek Miller, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056, which represents drivers and mechanics in MTA New York City Transit’s Queens bus division, the cuts are slated for June 27 and will affect the Q14, Q15, Q24, Q26, Q30, Q31, Q42, Q48, Q74, Q75, Q76, Q79, Q89, QM22, QM23 and X51.

“We’re at a pivotal point,” Miller said. “Do not devastate this economy and this borough any more than already has been done.”

Marshall outlined the crucial role buses play in Queens, especially in areas where subway service is minimal or nonexistent. She also said the cuts fly in the face of environmental responsibility.

“Isn’t it true that we’re encouraged to take public transportation?” Marshall asked. “Well, where is it? We need additional bus lines. Don’t cut — give us more.”

Donovan Richards, deputy chief of staff to City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), said public transportation in Far Rockaway already is “dismal,” before noting that MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jay Walder was raised in the Rockaways and should be mindful of how integral buses are to the borough.

Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio also appealed to Walder’s roots and said the cuts aren’t all that surprising.

“Queens has been shortchanged forever — across the board,” Gulluscio said.

Elkanah Reed, aide to Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), said that while Weprin understands the MTA must balance its budget, “we need all sides to be represented so we can meet the needs of the Queens community.”

Miller said the agency and Walder “refuse to exercise other options that would avert these cuts,” including reallocating federal stimulus funding to operations.

“Instead, they chose to balance their books on the backs of working people who depend on these bus lines each day,” Miller said.

A spokesman for the MTA said the agency had no comment on the rally.

Thursday’s assemblage came two weeks after a rally in Little Neck to save the Q79, which may be eliminated entirely. Henry Euler, First Vice President of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said he relies on the neighboring Q76, a route also facing cuts.

“It really is necessary to maintain those north-south lines,” Euler said.

Miller concluded the rally by comparing the MTA to a family unit.

“I understand that, at times, families can be dysfunctional,” Miller said. “But as the head of the family, Jay Walder should act more responsibly.”