I wasn’t able to attend last night’s public hearing on MTA cuts, but luckily Allan Rosen, the former MTA official who critiqued the plans earlier this week, sent us the dispatch below. I encourage anyone who went to add their two cents to the report.

As for me, I’ll be submitting testimony online based on what I’ve seen and heard from residents. Also, at the Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association meeting on Tuesday, board members asked to get a hearing in the area, which State Senator Marty Golden’s office is looking into.

Here’s Rosen’s report:

Brooklyn had their turn last night at giving the MTA an earful regarding their proposals to cut subway and bus service as well as the free or reduced-fare student MetroCards.  The meeting turned tumultous as a brawl broke out when one student tried to speak out of turn and four people were arrested.

Students were frustrated at having to wait hours for their turn to speak because of the MTA’s policy to allow elected officials to speak before the registered public speakers.  Finally, one elected official suggested that the MTA alternate one elected official with one member of the public, which the MTA finally heeded. Still, even pre-registered speakers, who registered weeks ago, such as Allan Rosen, didn’t get a chance to speak until 8:45 PM; the meeting began at 6.  Those registering on the night of the hearing had to wait much longer.  Many went home before their turn as the hour turned late.  One of them was CB 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo.  A few speakers from Sheepshead Bay did get a chance to speak. The meeting was expected to last until midnight.  It is unknown if the meeting actually lasted that long or even longer.

The main points brought out my speakers were the need not to cut student passes, the need to use a portion of the federal stimulus money to fill the deficit gap until more permanent funding can be found, a sweetheart deal between the MTA and Ratner which allowed the Atlantic Yards to be sold at below market value with terms of up to 80 years for him to complete payment to the MTA and how the MTA is wasting money by allowing 370 Jay Street to remain empty for years.

The disabled also spoke against proposals to cut Access-a-Ride services; some mentioned ways to improve how the current system works.  Others protested cuts to specific bus and subway routes.  The MTA stated that the complete video of the hearing will be made available on its website one week from today and all sumitted written testimony will be prepared in book form and be made available to Board members for their review.

Also, some people criticized the location of the hearing claiming it was a difficult location for them to get to, requiring multiple buses and trains. They suggested that in the future additional meetings be held at more locations.

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  • Sammy Finkelman

    There is no log on I can see.

    It does seem you get an opportunity after writing a message but I can't get ths to work:

    “Your user name may only contain alphanumeric characters and underscores and must start and end with an alphanumeric character.”

    That's NOT the problem.

    Anyway:

    >> Still, even pre-registered speakers, who registered weeks ago, such as Allan Rosen,

    Al Rosen wrote that? Who is, Moses, or maybe Bob Dole?

    > didn’t get a chance to speak until 8:45 PM; the meeting began at 6. Those
    > registering on the night of the hearing had to wait much longer.

    I got there and registered at 8:15 PM and spoke about third from last, although I could have gotten ahead in line since when they had about 15 left they were actually getting all those who had yellow tickets to line up on the left side of the room. At first they even said those in the first rows. But they went back more or less to the order of registration.

    I kept on sitting down. They knew. I did move to the left side of the room. Theer was absolutely no reason to stay there standing.

    By the way they dismissed the sign language interpreter. Somebody on the MTA board asked if there was anyone in the room who wanted it or needed it or something. Nobody's hand went up so they let her go home. Now that's a practical idea. They should do it more often but maybe state laws don't expire until 10 PM.

    They don't really expire of course even at 10 PM but maybe nobody cares. Possibly what made it legal, if this was legal, is that nobody was being allowed to enter any more so they could dispense with her by unanimous consent but I don't know if that's the case. That is if it is the case that nobody was being allowed to enter. But policemen were still outside where you pass the metal detector when I left.

    > Many went home before their turn as the hour turned late.

    That was true. About 4 out of every 5 speakers on the list was not there.

    People probably *expected* to speak near when they got in. If they know how it works, which the MTA does not tell them and mayeb can't legally exactly say this because it is not inevitable, is that elected officials will take up the time at the beginning.

    What you should expect is that the first hour or two will be taken up by elected officials, who mostly cite boilerplate for the cameras. The MTA people have already read their written statements. That is why of course they were bored. What is interesting is the other people and you can safely arrive one or two hours after the hearing starts. the best time for the shortest wait is probably near the close of registration or 2/3 of the way in. I think what other people have to say is worth listening to but not the elected officials.

    >> One of them was CB 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo. A few speakers from Sheepshead Bay did get a chance to speak.

    I didn't really hear anyone. I did hear about the B71. Maybe I got there a bit later. I heard Al Rosen. I even got a slip of paper from him.

    >> The meeting was expected to last until midnight. It is unknown if the meeting actually lasted that long or even longer.

    After the hearing ended I spent about ten minutes walking in the building and talking to people and I got into the subway at 11:05 PM I was suprised it was still so early.

    Some people by the way felt the room was cold but it was OK with me.

    The best strategy actually is to come in late. You can skip all the posturing by elected ffieials. they are at EVERY public hearing. You can register later. This is, if you are willing to stay till 11 O'Clock.

    One thing – every body should know – in all these hearings you have to go through a metal detector. I told a policeman there that I thought that maybe because this hearing was taking place in the Brooklyn Museum, there would not be a metal detector, but no they do this at all hearings.

    So don't bring scissors or anything else you might not be allowed to take in. Cameras are OK. They are basically interested in guns or other weapons.

    - Sammy Finkelman

  • winson

    if you want to save student MetroCards, your kids need to stop abusing their uses and the MTA needs to reprogramming turnstiles to not accept cards on days where they are off.

  • bagels

    Oh, big deal. How much money do you think the MTA will make if kids use their Cards to get to football practice on the weekend? It's ridiculous. As far as I have heard, rescinding the free cards will not do anything to close the supposed budget gap.

  • bagels

    Sorry. Meant to say,, “how much money do you think the MTA loses” when kids use their cards…..

  • Theresa Scavo

    When I arrived at the MTA hearings, I was told that the only Elected Official registered to speak was Marty Markowitz. At 6pm the hearings began and 19 speakers later the only people allowed to speak were the Electeds. This was a Public Hearing. After sitting for more than 2 hours plus, I just as many others left. These hearings are a farse. They are a platform for select groups to make a point and make a grant stand. The public is cast aside and made to sit for hours to accomodate the select few.

  • Winson

    a lot, more than you think

  • BrooklynBus

    I was supposedly Number 15 on the list, so I guess I really was really Number 34. Also, they didn't abide by their 3 minute rule and let the elected officials just walk in and speak up to 10 minutes. Considering the scope of the hearings, they really needed to have a half dozen in different neighborhoods just to accommodate Brooklyn.

    In spite of all this, I think the hearings in the past were a farce, but this time since they gave you the opportunity to also submit writtten testimony if you couldn't speak, and from the warm thank you I received from the MTA after speaking, I got the impression that this time they really did want to hear constructive suggestions on how to avoid some of the cuts. Unfortunately, I agree with you that there was too much grandstanding, and most of the comments made really were not that productive. Most of the elected officals merely stated that it was wrong to cut in their neighborhood, implying that it was okay to do this in the next district.

    There is still time to submit comments in writing and I urge anyone with alternative suggestions to what was proposed to submit them.

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