MTA cuts would cut Brooklyn to pieces

Massive MTA budget cuts would seriously affect riders of the J, M, Z trains in Williamsburg.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

Getting around Brooklyn — especially for residents of Williamsburg, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst — will get a lot harder under proposed cuts by the MTA.

In a desperate attempt to fill what the Metropolitan Transit Authority says is a $1.4-billion budget gap, the cash-strapped agency is moving forward with a far-reaching plan to raise fares, eliminate train lines and bus routes, fire staff and lengthen wait times, among other cost-cutting proposals.

The cuts might hurt Williamsburg residents the most.

Commuters could face the elimination of the Z train and the abbreviation of the G and M trains, which would terminate at Court House Square in Queens and Broad Street in Manhattan, respectively.

“The entire Williamsburg community are being victimized by the MTA and its unfair plan of cuts,” said Councilwoman Diane Reyna (D–Williamsburg). “Three of the major trains that service this community are on the list for elimination or shortening — this is completely unacceptable.”

The MTA decided to cuts trains that run along “lines where other trains exist,” spokesman Aaron Donovan told The Brooklyn Paper.

Without the Z train, the MTA has proposed running the J and M trains as local routes through Bushwick and Williamsburg, adding between 10 and 15 minutes to most commutes, according to Gene Russianoff, a spokesman for the transit watchdog, the Straphangers’ Campaign.

That’s about 15 more minutes than many North Brooklyn commuters are willing to wait.

“That’s crazy!” said Gina Jackson, 23, a 311 employee who was waiting at the Myrtle Avenue station for an express J train on Friday. “The local is bull—. Ain’t nothing I can do. It’s a damn shame.”

It’s not just Williamsburg residents who are feeling Jackson’s pain.

Terminating the M train in Lower Manhattan might abandon riders who rely on the route’s South Brooklyn rush-hour extension, which duplicates the D line through Bensonhurst and Sunset Park, and the R line through Park Slope and Downtown Brooklyn.

“Any cut to the service would be terrible, because the service here is already bad,” said Carmine Santa Maria, president of the Bensonhurst West End Community Council.

The MTA is also considering running N trains over the Manhattan Bridge during late nights — shuttering the Court Street and Lawrence Street stations in Downtown Brooklyn, where the N now stops as a local train after dark.

Subway service isn’t the only thing on the chopping block.

The MTA plans to scratch three bus routes including the B37, which runs from Bay Ridge through Gowanus and Boerum Hill before arriving in Downtown Brooklyn; the B39, which runs from the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge across the river to the Lower East Side of Manhattan; and the B75, which runs from Windsor Terrace through Park Slope, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill before reaching Downtown Brooklyn.

The agency also plans to cut “lightly used” weekend service on the X27 and X28 express buses, which shuttle riders between Manhattan and Shore Road in Bay Ridge, and Cropsey Avenue in Bensonhurst — a decision that might alienate Yellow Hook commuters, said Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge).

“South Brooklyn is already underserved by the MTA, and sacrificing this community is not a smart plan,” Gentile said. “The reality is that many people work on the weekends, and for them, there’s no good alternative to those express buses. Those working families shouldn’t be sacrificed — other options have got to be considered.”

Though the cuts won’t be finalized until the end of the year, transit experts are warning commuters to brace for the worst.

“This is the worst their finances have been that I’ve seen in 25 years of following the agency,” said Russianoff. “These cuts are a serious possibility — coupled with a whopping fare hike.”

— with Makeda Dash

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