Pols Blast MTA

Councilman Jimmy Vacca (left) with the Bx 14 bus at a press conference on Wednesday, November 26 held in protest of the MTA’s doomsday budget cuts, which would cut off bus service from Country Club and Spencer Estate to Pelham Bay and Parkchester, as well as double the fare on existing routes and access-a-ride. Photos by Patrick Rocchio

Proposed service cuts to the Bx 14, Bx 4, Bx 8, and BxM7B have local elected officials up in arms, demanding that the MTA’s $1.2 billion budget shortfall not be corrected by socking it to the most needy or deserving people who use mass transit.

On Wednesday, November 26 Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, and Councilman Jimmy Vacca led dozens of frustrated protesters at the corner of Ampere and Research avenues mad about losing their bus link from Country Club and Spencer Estate to the rest of the City if the proposed MTA cuts go through.

Vacca called the press conference, which was attended by Spencer Estate Civic Association president Al Carena, Country Club Civic Association president Marcia Pavlica and many concerned residents who would be most affected by the raising of the fare for access-a-ride to double the subway base fare and Express Bus fares $7.50 from $5, up from just $3 in 2005.

The Bx 14 bus line, the only mass transit for Country Club and Spencer Estate, would be completely eliminated under the MTA plan, as would the BxM7B express bus, the only direct route from City Island to Manhattan.

“I know we are facing tough times, but these cuts would basically cast thousands of middle class New Yorkers out to sea,” Vacca said. “Does the MTA realize that these communities are indeed part of New York City? In many parts of my district, we’ll be telling people to find a car or get ready to walk a couple of miles to the nearest train.”

Senator Klein shared the indignity about the cuts that the large crowd of protesters, which also included local businessmen John Bonizio and Joe Regina, both of the Merchants and Professionals of Westchester Square and Metro Optics, with two locations in Westchester Square and Parkchester, and Ed Romeo, president of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers and Community Association, and co-owner of Lasting Impressions at 3196 Westchester Avenue.

“In these tough fiscal times we need to be especially judicious about where we trim services and funding, and make sure that middle class people receive no more than a fair portion of the burden,” said Senator Klein. “Working families are the lifeblood of our city, and we need to protect essential services which include affordable and effective transportation.”

In his speech at the press conference, Vacca referenced “the forgotten middle class,” a term which had especial resonance in the apparently forgotten communities the MTA has decided to turn its back on if these cuts are put into effect.

If put into affect, the MTA plan would also suspend weekday service on Bx 4 bus at Westchester Square and suspend Sunday service on the Bx 18, which serves Edgewater Park, Locust Point, and Throgs Neck.

“I am very distressed at the proposed cuts announced by the MTA,” said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto. “A year ago, all the talk was about going green and encouraging commuters to take mass transit. At a time when the trend is to bring people out of their cars and onto mass transit, the MTA is contradicting its own goals and sending the wrong message to the public.”

The MTA’s proposed cuts in this worst case scenario would begin next spring, while fare hikes – including an increase in the subway fare from $2.50 to $3 – would hit in June.

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