Friday morning, a roster of council members, assembly members and state senators convened with MTA leadership, including NYC Transit president Andy Byford and Mark Holmes, chief officer of MTA Bus, at Queens Borough Hall to workshop the plan.
Many elected officials took to social media before and after the briefing, encouraging residents in their districts to provide the MTA with feedback and make their voices heard.
“The first Queens Bus Redesign draft does a huge disservice to our district, especially to Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights,” tweeted State Senator Jessica Ramos. “I’ve shared my feedback with NYC Transit Bus, but our neighbors need to share theirs.”
In response to concerns about proposed cuts in bus service, Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, who represents Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, as well as parts of Woodside, arranged for a town hall with the MTA.
The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting, held at the Rumpus Room on 93rd Street, was to bring the agency to the neighborhood and give residents an opportunity to discuss the changes.
“I am alarmed by some of the changes to bus routes – the Q32, the Q33, the Q47 the Q49, and the Q66 – proposed by the Queens Bus Network Redesign draft plan,” said DenDekker in a statement.
“Cutting these bus lines that serve seniors, people with disabilities, parents, and children would have significant consequences for our community,” the statement continues.
DenDekker is not the only one who expressed a need for the MTA to add more buses rather than take them away. Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, who represents Maspeth, Woodside and Middle Village, also stressed the importance of accountability on the part of the MTA when it comes to the redesign.
In particular, Barnwell pointed to the removal of stops currently served by the Q18 on 65th Place, inconveniencing nearly 600 residents who live in a nearby co-op, on top of those living in surrounding homes.
He believes that in order for the redesign to be effective, the agency should make a more concerted effort to reach impacted communities.
“The answer is for the MTA to listen to the constituents who actually take the bus,” Barnwell said. “What I want is basic: do not cut services. The state just gave you $1 billion, you should not be cutting, you should be expanding. Anything other than that would be unacceptable.”
On Sunday, the MTA announced additional outreach events scheduled for the coming weeks, including a Commuters Town Hall hosted at the Rockaway YMCA on February 6, facilitated by Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato. NYC Transit President Byford will be in attendance.
“The purpose of this meeting is to give our commuters a voice,” a statement by Pheffer Amato reads. “ extremely important that our voices are heard, and challenges considered as the MTA moves forward with the modernization of our entire public transportation system.”
A face-to-face with the MTA is an opportunity that not every area of Queens is privy to at the moment, especially the neighborhoods of Northeast Queens.
“The MTA has scheduled eight workshops in Queens to get feedback on the bus redesign,” Councilman Barry Grodenchik posted on Twitter last week. “How is it remotely possible that none of the workshops is scheduled in communities most dependent on buses, namely Eastern Queens? We aren’t on the subway map and now this.”
There are still no input sessions in Northeast Queens as of yet, but the MTA says it will continuously update the calendar of public events to the Queens Bus Redesign website as new ones are added.
Jan. 16 at Beach 44 St from 4 to 7 p.m.; Jan. 21 at Greater Ridgewood Youth Council from 6 to 8 p.m; Jan. 22 at Queens Flushing Library from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 23 at SUNY Queens Educational Opportunity Center from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Jan. 28 at Queens Borough Hall from 6 to 8 p.m.; Jan. 29 at JHS 202 Robert H. Goddard from 6 to 8 p.m.; Jan. 30 at Langston Hughes Library and Cultural Center from 6 to 8 p.m.; Feb. 4 at Jacob Riis Settlement from 6 to 8 p.m.; Feb. 5 at RISE/Rockaway Waterfront Alliance from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; and Feb. 6 at Rockaway YMCA from 7 to 8:30 p.m.