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MTA gets an hearful of straphanger rage at first cuts hearing

Hundreds of angry straphangers packed a public hearing in Flushing Tuesday night to protest the drastic service cuts the MTA has scheduled to begin in July.

"Of course this would cause hardships," said Kevin Sealy, 49, a bus rider from St. Albans.

Facing a $750 million deficit, the MTA plans to curtail service on three subway lines, allow for more crowded trains, and scale back 110 bus routes. The agency has also proposed eliminating discounted student MetroCards, which go to 585,000 school children a year.

“Why are you doing this to us?” said Catherine Baijnauth, 15, a high school student from Jamaica, during the evening hearing, at the evening hearing at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn delivered a petition against the cuts with 41,000 signatures.

“New Yorkers are sick of paying more and getting less,” said Quinn (D-Manhattan).

Later this week, MTA officials will get an earful during public hearings scheduled across the boroughs, with hundreds expected to protest outside the Manhattan session Thursday. But elected officials have blasted the MTA’s decision to hold two hearings a night, saying it won’t allow the full board to hear all the testimony.

“I thought all the MTA board members would be sitting up there," said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, when a handful of board members had arrived.

Still, angry public hearings did prompt the MTA to do an about face on devastating service cuts in 1991, transit advocates say.

Agency officials retooled the current round of reductions based on input from last year’s hearings, including scrapping plans to reduce late night subway service.

“It sends a message that people care,” said Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign.

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