By Gabriela Resto-Montero
CHELSEA — Manhattanites pleaded with the MTA to ride a mile in their commutes and consider the effect of their proposed service cuts on city residents at a spirited public hearing Thursday.
The MTA faces a $750 million budget shortfall, $378 million more than when the service cuts were first proposed in December. To fill the gap the MTA proposed reducing A, L, N, Q, 1 and 7 subway service, eliminating five bus lines as well as the W and M trains, and ending free rides for city school students.
"You don't see a face, you just think about the money," said Priscilla Ruiz, a high school student who protested with the Urban Youth Cooperative and Students for Transportation, at the meeting held at the Fashion Institute of Technology. "These are the people who live paycheck to paycheck."
Board members remained stoic during the public comments, some of which took a turn to the populist and targeted the representatives themselves.
"When rich people ask you to make sacrifices that they're not making — they're lying to you," said Paul Wilcox with the Bail Out the People movement.
After hours of testimony, Adolfo Abreu made his case for keeping student MetroCards and asked MTA Chairman Jay Walder to attend a meeting with the Urban Youth Cooperative March 17 to discuss alternatives to axing the program.
Abreu's classmates in the audience chanted for Walder to answer. The chairman cracked a smile, nodded his head and said yes.
Before the hearing, Walder pre-empted the MetroCard debate in a letter to straphangers.
"Students do not pay to board the yellow school bus, but that service is paid for with state and local funding," Walder wrote. "Last year, the State withdrew its support for the free school fare."
The board is expected to vote on the cuts at its full meeting March 24.