By Gabriela Resto-Montero
MIDTOWN — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted Wednesday to authorize a series of subway and bus service cuts to fill its $800 million budget gap.
The vote was nearly unanimous, with just two members — Norman Seabrook and Allen Cappelli — voting against the cuts.
The budget cuts, which will save approximately $93 million, are just the beginning, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a press conference after the decision.
"These aren't massive budget cuts," Bloomberg said. "These are the budget cuts in response to the old cutback in state subsidies to the MTA. The next round, I would think, would be much worse."
The plan, which would eliminate the W and V subway lines as well as several bus routes, was scaled back following a series of raucous public hearings across the city and surrounding suburbs.
A decision on a controversial plan to eliminate free rides for students was pushed back to a later board meeting.
"We did listen and we made changes," said Jay Walder, MTA chairman, of the influence the meetings had on the board's decision.
Under the approved budget, 450 station agents and 600 administration positions will be eliminated. Members of the TWU Local 100 union spoke against the plan at the meeting.
"Instead of saving money on station agents, you're going to be spending money on lawsuits," said Felicia Fields, a station agent. "If a customer gets hurt, I'm telling you they're coming back with a lawyer."
In the public gallery, Esther Pulliam-Torres said scaling back Access-A-Ride would keep many seniors from getting to the center where she volunteers on 40th Street.
"Without access, or if they change the fare again, it's going to be difficult," Pulliam-Torres said.
Elected officials, including Christine Quinn, City Council speaker, proposed dipping into federal stimulus money and the MTA's capital funds budget to cover the gap.
Before voting against the budget, Seabrook expressed sympathy for Walder and his role in trying to keep the system afloat after the State legislature cut funds for the agency.
"They set you up," Seabrook said of the previous administration. "You came across the pond and I know you wish you'd gone back."
Seabrook suggested that the board wait 60 days to comb through all possible options before deciding on the service reductions.
The cuts are scheduled to go into effect in June.