On the first business day since NICE eliminated 11 bus lines, Nassau lawmakers joined with riders to implore the county to restore the routes.
Gathering at the foot of the Long Island Rail Road’s Hicksville station, through which several of the eliminated routes passed, Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) and Legis. Judith Jacobs (D-Woodbury) spoke with several displaced riders — some of whom learned about the cuts upon arriving at their bus stops Tuesday morning.
“There is absolutely no excuse for this,” said Jacobs, who called the cuts a “tragedy” for the county. The Nassau Inter-County Express got rid of the 11 routes and reduced service on three others as it looks to shrink a $7.5 million budget deficit it says was brought about by growing labor and employee benefit costs.
The agency said all the affected routes carry relatively few riders. In total, about 2,000 customers are impacted, or 2 percent of NICE’s 100,000 daily riders.
Among them is Richard Clolery, who rode his Palomar mountain bicycle in the subfreezing temperatures Monday to get to his job at a Hicksville supermarket now that the N73 and N74 are gone.
“This is my alternate means of getting around,” said Clolery, 37. “Sadly, when it rains or snows, it’s useless.”
Jacobs, Curran and other Democratic lawmakers have suggested several ways for the county to come up with the money to restore the cuts, including by using stronger-than-expected recent sales tax receipts. Jacobs has also urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to step in and reverse the cuts.
“If we want to thrive and we want to keep our young people, then we really do need a robust transit system. We don’t need it to be cut,” Curran said. “I think that we can find the money to keep these routes and keep our existing routes as strong as they can be.”
Curran met with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano on Tuesday afternoon. Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the two will work together on “advocacy efforts for additional state transportation aid for NICE Bus.”
But even with additional funding, Mangano’s office and NICE officials have said restoring the routes would create logistical problems and new costs, and that there are alternatives for most of the affected riders.
For Thomas Pieken, who relied on the N80 and N81 to get to medical appointments, that alternative is his two feet.
“I’m going to have to walk to Bethpage, because I just don’t have the funds” [for a taxi], said Pieken, 27, of Hicksville. “It’s going to take me an hour — in like 15-degree weather.”