By Jory Heckman, Staff Writer
For many in the crowd at Wednesday's MTA public hearing, cutting Nassau County's access to Long Island Bus services threatens to make their weekday commute an added headache with limited mass transit.
As for Kevin Christman, a Wantagh resident representing scores of Long Island's physically handicapped, dissolving the Able-Ride service means living as a shut-in until officials make the switch to a privatized system.
"You can't cut these services, because if you do, people like myself and the people that I work with and for won't be able to work. And we won't be able to see our doctors, becoming a drain on the county," said Christman. "I would rather want to continue to be a productive citizen."
Christman, unable to rise from his seat and walk to the podium like most members of the crowd, was almost overlooked by the MTA panel when his name was called from the list of citizens for public comment.
The crowd around him stirred until an usher handed him a wireless microphone.
Anxiety swells around the future of public transportation for the physically disabled, particularly when individuals have already been met with inconsistent and inconvenient service in suiting their unique needs.
According to Christman, the group of 12 people he travelled with had to arrange for five separate Able-Ride vehicles to arrive at the hearing.
Speaking on behalf of her constituents and her own family, Patricia Ann McDonald, the Mayor of Malverne, admonished the MTA against the quality of life for disabled persons.
In 1986, McDonald's husband Steven, an NYPD detective, was shot in the line of duty, leaving him quadriplegic and in need of a respirator.
"Everything they [the disabled speakers] see is so true," said McDonald, drawing upon the daily struggles of her husband.
Though the McDonalds have a van arranged for doctors appointments and their son's baseball and basketball games, this resource is not consistent enough for the fallen officer to regain a normal life.
"I see how it affects him – not only emotionally, but physically," said Mayor McDonald. "And I urge you, as human beings, we are blessed to be able-bodied, but for those who aren't, they need this."
Judy Bowser, who also spoke during the public comments portion, emphasized the car-dependent culture of Long Island, something that blindsides those physically unable to operate a car.
"These people who rely on Long Island bus will be robbed of the ability to maintain and further their quality of life," said Bowser. "What will they do – will they leave Long Island? Walking is not an option, and cabs are prohibitively expensive."
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano did not attend the event. A poster-sized facsimile of Mangano; however, was met with jeers from the audience when a speaker brought it before the podium.