The M.T.A. has made it a custom, even if only a formality, to have a public comment period where New Yorkers can address their comments, concerns and tirades with board members. In these dire times, with fare increases and service cuts on the horizon people are pissed and not afraid to show it. They did so en masse at the Hilton Ballroom last night.
From The Gothamist:
Boo is right, if the MTA had managed their money better and not wasted millions upon millions on redundant administrative costs, things might look a bit different.
Last night, hundreds people crowded a ballroom at the Hilton for the MTA's first public hearing on the proposed fare hikes and service cuts. Leona Adams, an 86-year-old, spoke out against raising Access-a-Ride fares 250% (or higher): "The medical field has extended our lives to whatever age we are...yet if we are not able to continue our active lives that Access-A-Ride allows, then we will become burdens to our family, the city, the state and the nation."The crowd was feisty: Not only did over 200 sign up to give the MTA a piece of their mind, they cheered when someone spoke up for their cause—the M2 bus! the M8! Access-a-Ride!—and booed the MTA board. The chance to face the MTA board, amid talk of a $100+ monthly Metrocard and losing bus service (see full proposed hikes and changes here), forced the MTA to open up another ballroom for the overflow crowd.[...]
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer—who in his remarks to the MTA board said, "The MTA has proposed a doomsday scenario of fare increases and service cuts that would hurt every New Yorker"—told the Village Voice, "There are more people outside [the ballroom] than inside. [The MTA] purposefully didn't want the press to see how many people across the city are inside. It's outrageous." It's estimated that 800 people attended. With each speaker allotted 3 minutes to speak (some were no shows, but many went over their time), MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told us, "The last speaker concluded his remarks at 1:26 a.m."
MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger told the crowd he would love to keep everything the fare and the service the way it is (which did arouse some boos from those who think service is already shoddy). As for why the MTA faces a $1.2 billion budget deficit, MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot Sander, who understood the crowd's anger, blamed previous (read: before my time) borrowing for capital projects.
Still, there would be a budget deficit and ultimately this all rests in the hands of Governor Paterson, who should demand to keep the system on track and improving. He....and the legislature have the power to ensure that funding is directed the MTA's way. Perhaps they could add on a restructuring of how the process works as well, because as the comments on Gothamist suggest, those boardmembers could care less about what the 800 people who showed up last night cared about. They just wanted to play their part and get outta there.