Pols rally to fight Brooklyn bus cuts

Gowanus resident Betty Lester isn’t ready for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s version of doomsday — no matter what form it might take.

On Friday, Lester joined elected officials for a morning rally at Smith and Union streets in Carroll Gardens, blasting the MTA for a series of service cuts locals feel could cripple commuters.

“You don’t expect them to discontinue service — especially now that we’re paying more money for the fare,” she said.

Lester, who lives in the Gowanus public housing development, said most older residents rely on public transportation, particularly the buses, which stop every few blocks, as opposed to lengthier intervals between subway stations.

The MTA is seeking to discontinue the B71 and B75, lines that serve Brownstone Brooklyn, along with the B37, which serves Bay Ridge. The agency, which released a final proposal on Friday, said the discontinued lines would be restructured, saving the agency $3 million. The so-called doomsday plan was hatched, in part, to address a budget shortfall of $400 million the agency said it discovered in December, along with state budget cuts totalling $143 million.

Assemblymember Joan Millman, who organized the rally, said even with changes to its plan, she and her colleagues will continue to press the agency to ensure that commuters aren’t given the shaft.

“This might not be the last of it,” she said after the rally. “I told everyone not to throw away their signs because we might have to use them again.”

Millman said the cuts could devastate commuters’ quality of life, as well as the local economy. “A lot of people shop in Downtown Brooklyn, so why would you cut off bus lines [the B75, B37] that brings people right to the thriving commercial strips, and make those shopping experiences inaccessible?” she asked.

Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesperson said the plan, which must still win approval from the MTA’s board, is to combine the B61 and B77 into a single route operating from Downtown Brooklyn to Windsor Terrace via Red Hook.

The plan calls for replacing the segment of the B75 between Downtown Brooklyn and Smith and Ninth Street with an extension of the B57. The segment of the B75 that rumbles from Smith and Ninth to 20th Street and Prospect Park West would be replaced with the combined B61/B77.

Meanwhile, the B71 would be discontinued entirely, and 1,080 weekday and 1,210 weekend customers would be required to walk to other nearby bus routes, the plan states. The B37 would be discontinued and replaced with restructured B70 service.

“While we are fully aware that any type of service reduction is painful, we worked hard to limit the impact on our customers by revisiting the initial proposals,” Ortiz said.

Any changes will be the subject of public hearings, expected to begin in March. “These are proposals,” Ortiz stressed. “We look forward to the start of a dialogue between the MTA and its customers.” If approved, the changes could be implemented in June.