Local and citywide leaders say the MTA is throwing the Rockaways under the bus.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio joined with Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder and Councilmember Donovan Richards in Far Rockaway on Friday, April 19 to decry the decreased shuttle bus service to the Sandy-affected peninsula.
A train service to the Rockaways last ran on Sunday, October 28 as the city buckled down for the storm, which left rails across Jamaica Bay severely damaged.
Since then, buses have run from the Howard Beach-JFK Station to the peninsula.
But on Monday the MTA cut bus service from 94 to 75 runs per weekday.
De Blasio contrasted the cuts with the transit authority’s new Cannonball train, a streamlined shuttle to the Hamptons. He said people with high incomes would benefit from the new train while low- to middle-income Rockaway residents would suffer from the cost-saving measure.
“The MTA can’t throw the Rockaways under the bus,” he said. “If it can expand service for Manhattanites weekending in the Hamptons, then it can afford to do right by hard-hit families in the Rockaways.”
Train service within Rockaway returned in December with the restored H train. It runs from the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue station to Beach 90-Holland.
“This shuttle service provides an essential lifeline with the rest of New York City for our residents in one of the areas hit hardest by Sandy,” Richards said. “If anything, what we really need is more buses during peak morning and evening hours.”
Goldfeder, who has advocated for faster train service to the peninsula, noted that south Queens residents already have one of the city’s longest commutes to midtown. With families still reeling six months after the storm, the service cuts would be another blow, he said.
“Our communities are still struggling to rebuild from the damage caused by Sandy,” Goldfeder said. “And the last thing they need is to be nickeled-and-dimed for service that is crucial to helping them recover.”
The MTA, however, said the service, while decreasing, is shifting to streamline travel in and out of Rockaway.
“We’re actually improving service for the vast majority of customers who use the shuttle,” said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz.
There will be more shuttle buses running during rush hours, and decreased service during slower hours, he said.
Oritz said the Cannonball train follows a route that has been in operation for the past century. He added that the only recent change was making the train leave from Penn Station instead of Hunters Point.