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Doomsday Cuts Protested By New Yorkers

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City officials are being joined by riders across the city to protest proposed cuts to the system that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board will vote on Wednesday in an effort to reduce its deficit.

Community leaders and high school students gathered Tuesday morning in front of Brooklyn's Maxwell High School, demonstrating against the MTA's proposal to a gradually phaseout the popular student discount MetroCard program, meaning more than a half-million students would have to pay full fares by 2011.

Students say if it goes through, they won't be able to afford getting to school.

"We already have hardship now in terms of the recession. Kids will drop out of school, they won't come to school,” said community advocate Kevin McCall. “They will hop the turnstiles, crime will go up."

"If they cut the school MetroCard, no child is coming to school,” said a student. “Do you know how much money parents have to pay a week for their child to go to school? And some parents don't even make that much money, so if they cut the MetroCard, nobody is going to be coming to school."

If the plan goes through, students would have to pay half price starting in September, and full price a year later. It would cost about $900 for a student annually, if a monthly MetroCard is used.

Governor David Paterson said that he is looking for ways to remedy the situation for students.

"If the upturn in the market that we are all hearing about is significant enough, the first thing I will do with any added revenues is target them back to the MTA to relieve the young people from losing their MetroCards," said the governor.

The MTA is also proposing several service cuts to bridge a $383 million budget gap.

The plan would eliminate the W and Z subway lines and dozens of bus routes, shorten the G and M subway lines, and reduce service during off-peak hours.

The service cuts would take effect next spring.

Several City Council members held a press conference on the steps of City Hall Tuesday blasting the proposal and offering an alternative. The lawmakers said the agency could use a combination of federal stimulus dollars and operating and capital funds.

"I think we all have to accept that there may, given the recession, be cuts on some level," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "They cannot be this deep. They cannot be done in an undemocratic way, and they cannot be done when there are thoughtful, doable alternatives on the table. And they cannot be done when these alternatives are not even given any attention. That is, quite frankly, a double smack in the face to straphangers of New York City."

Still, MTA Board member Norman Seabrook says he expects to be in the minority when he votes against the cut.

“I expect it to pass because that's what we continue to do,” he said. “We continue to sit there and nod our heads yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and it's got to change.”

NY1 will carry the vote live Wednesday morning, beginning at 9:30.

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