MTA Meeting Was Anything But a ‘Community Conversation’

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 Though last Thursday’s meeting held at the YMCA between MTA NYC Transit reps and local students, residents and pols regarding the MTA issues, and mostly the proposed Queens Bus Network Redesign, was described as a “community conversation,” the hour-long “conversation” left locals feeling bamboozled as questions presented to the MTA were vetted and censored.

At the meeting, where former MTA Commissioner Andy Byford was originally supposed to attend before announcing his resignation, locals were instead met by a team of other MTA staff. Attendees were asked to state their questions on cards, which were submitted. Of the 18 questions answered, the majority were about the A-train and improvements to accessibility, with just a few brushing the major bone of contentions, the elimination of the Q53-SBS bus and route changes for the Q22 and Q35. As Community Board 14 Board Member Chris Tedesco stated, “Tonight we got career people in agencies that gave us their stock answers that have nothing to do with the Rockaway peninsula. This meeting could have been held in Co-op City in the Bronx, and most of everything we heard there would have been relevant. They told us the cards they are going to play tonight, and it’s not many.”

After the meeting, locals left with the attitude that the Q53 may be removed from the chopping block. MTA Department of Buses Chief Mark Holmes said that at the RISE meeting held the night before, residents strongly expressed their dissatisfaction, and he vaguely alluded that the MTA will re-assess the future of the Q53. “We’ve heard the concerns of our customers, and we are taking those concerns back to the drawing board.”

In an interview with The  Rockaway Times, Scholars’ Academy students, Christian Hernandez, Student Government President; and Lily Mikell, Student Government Secretary of Communications, who both attended the RISE meeting, said that they brought up legitimate concerns, which they felt were ignored by MTA reps.

 “We took a survey at our school and so far we have 306 responses with 43% saying that eliminating the Q22 service west of Beach 116th Street would negatively impact students’ commute; 82.5% saying that removal of the Q53 would negatively impact their commute,” Hernandez said. “Plus eliminating the Q53 bus would affect students with disabilities.”

Mikell also expressed how the potential of a men’s shelter opening on Beach 101st Street would be a double-blow if the Q53 bus is eliminated and students have to transfer to several buses, on streets where homeless men could be walking around.

“When the question was posed about how this will negatively impact the community, one of the representatives responded, ‘Just drive.’” Mikell said, “I thought that was so rude, especially at a meeting where students were voicing their concerns. It made me wonder, ‘Are they even listening to us?'"

At the YMCA meeting, a question was posed about if the A-train could regularly run from Rockaway Park to Manhattan. Sally Librera, senior vice president for Subways, said, “Extending a regular line from Rockaway Park to Manhattan would be complicated by budget moves, plus the A-train is the longest line in the subway system, and also bridge closures will make it unreliable.”

Another question was if the old “H” round robin train that ran from Mott Avenue to Beach 116th Street could be re-established. Librera said the same reliability issues would arise.

As question-after-question was directed by the moderator to the MTA reps, local community advocate, John Cori, exclaimed out loud, “This is censorship. Why is the moderator censoring our questions?”

Another attendee burst out, “Few of the questions you are answering have anything to do with the issue at hand. We came to hear about the future of the buses, and are still waiting to be answered.”

CB14’s Tedesco said, “I feel if Andy Byford would have come here, not only would he have taken to heart the issues we specifically have, but he would have come back with an answer tonight.

“He is someone that owns a problem and finds a solution. These reps tonight just show they don’t understand our issues, and clearly, they don’t care. I think they are going to end up giving us a few bones here and there like bringing back the Q53, and keep it going to Jackson Heights, which I feel is a real huge oversight. If this is our leadership for NYC Transit, we are in trouble.”

As the proposal is still in early stages, the MTA still has a chance to reconsider. Keep reading the RT for future updates.

By Kami-Leigh Agard

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