Local Protesters Pack MTA Hearing
Nearly 100 Rockaway and Broad Channel residents made their way to the public hearing held by the MTA on Tuesday night in Flushing to throw their best counterpunch at the agency's plan to eliminate the Cross Bay Bridge resident rebate program.
"For 60 years the transit authority and the MTA board closed our community in," resident and activist Dan Tubridy said at the hearing. "Change your thinking and don't put this wall back up."
The Rockaway and Broad Channel protesters, who constituted about one-third of the hearing's audience, echoed Tubridy's words throughout the packed conference hall of the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel.
But none was more vocal than the pack of locals seated on the left side of the room, many holding up signs of protest for the MTA board to see, such as "Rockaway paid tolls to be here" and
Free Rockaway, Free Broad Channel." They feverishly chanted and clapped after every speaker, even those from outside Rockaway, some of whom only touched briefly on the Cross Bay Bridge rebate program in their testimony.
"Rockaway is an isolated peninsula," Lew Simon said. "For 50 years we have been dumped on. The ferry is free for Staten Island. I demand that tolls are free for all residents of Queens!"
Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer spoke on behalf of the community and accused the MTA board members of ignoring the community.
"I am very upset; I believe no one is listening. No one here has ever acknowledged that this is an injustice to people of Queens," Pheffer said. "We are one community and everyone here will tell you the same thing. It is unfair. You're going to kill the Rockaways."
Besides the possible revoking of the Cross Bay Bridge resident rebate program, the MTA budget passed in December to close their $1.2 billion budget deficit includes the raising of subway and bus fares to at least $2.50 and monthly MetroCards could reach as high as $103 a month. Express-bus fares would also rise from $5 to $6.25.
This was the second of eight public hearings the MTA has held on the proposed service and fare changes. The first hearing in Manhattan drew more than 400 people and this hearing brought out more than 300.
Dolores Orr, Chairperson of Community Board 14, doesn't understand why people should have to pay a toll to go to church, among other places.
"Nowhere else in this city or state does a community have to pay a toll to go to the hospital, doctor, to the bank, to take children to school, and yes to even go to church," she said. "In addition, why do the residents of this great borough of Queens have to pay a toll to access their beach, Rockaway Beach?"
To prevent the suspension of the resident rebate program, MTA fare increases and service cuts, state legislators must come up with alternate plans or funding by March 25, the date MTA board members hold the final vote on the proposal.
Therefore, as early as June, residents with an EZ-Pass could expect to pay $1.03 each way to get back and forth from the Rockaways to Broad Channel if the MTA is not bailed out by state legislators.