By BOBBIE BELL
Staten Islanders on Thursday called on the White House and the U.S. Congress to bail out the MTA by evaporating the hot air of partisan debate and sending federal funds to the transit agency.
To dramatize the point the activists at a local rally had constructed from cardboard a hot air balloon to signal the method commuters to would have to use to reach their jobs across the harbor if the inter borough buses stopped running.
“We have a message for those in DC who are filled of hot air,” said Raymond Greaves, vice- president of Amalgamated Transit Union International. “You either show us the money or we’re gonna show you the door.”
“We cannot let the MTA fail,” said Rose Uscianowski, an organizer at Transportation Alternative. “We have to let Congress know, we have to let president Trump know, that the MTA has to be saved.”
She added, “The hot air balloon was meant in a funny way to show just
how stranded we’re gonna be,” said Uscianowski. While meant to be funny, it was also intended to “show Congress just how serious we are.”
“What do we want? Save transit,” said Stephanie Burgos-Veras of
Riders Alliance in a call and response chant “We need President Trump and Congress to come together and not leave Staten Islander’s stranded.”
Another transit advocate echoed the sentiment.
“I am here to implore Congress that they can not in good faith abandon us,” Filippa Grisafi told the Brooklyn News Service. “People buy houses closer to transportation… and it’s not
going to look very appealing to live in New York City any more.”
Grisafi has been fighting to save MTA services for three years,
since she worked in Tribeca and the bus service route was cancelled, making commuting to work a challenge. “The amount of elderly people who take our buses is completely high,” she said. “There are no other alternatives.”
Some local officials joined the rally. “This is everyone’s fight,” said Staten Island City Councilman Joseph Borelli. “We wish we had a subway in Staten island that connected us to other parts of the city, unfortunately that is just a pipe dream,”
“72% of the immigrant income goes to transportation and on rent, because they depend on transportation,” said Yesenia Mata, the Executive director of La Colmena. “If something happens to MTA, then that will greatly impact our immigrant community.”