WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Westchester's government operations legislative committee passed a petition Thursday urging the state to disapprove the county executive's plan to partially-recoup service from the defunct Route 76 bus line by expanding Route 13.
Legislator Judith Myers (D-Mamaroneck) criticized Republican County Executive Robert Astorino for slashing a Bee-Line Bus route that lawmakers provided $243,000 for in the budget, saying his new proposal strands Milton Point seniors, their home care aids and commuters who relied on Route 76’s service between Port Chester and Rye.
"Unfortunately, there're two areas that are not receiving any service, one of which is the Milton Point area, and the other is an area in the Port Chester business district," Myers said of Astorino's proposed expansion of the Route 13 bus. "You can’t get from Kohl’s [downtown] to Milton Point, short of one of the suggestions that someone thought up, which was perhaps running across the New England Thruway, although I think that generally is viewed as somewhat difficult for seniors.”
Lawmakers, who have a Democratic majority, voted five to one to pass a resolution petitioning the state not to approve the new route suggested by Astorino unless it's expanded to include the 30 riders currently cut off from Route 13.
Legislator Kenneth Jenkins, (D-Yonkers) who chairs the board of legislators, said lawmakers were upset that Astorino’s team declined to discuss ways to funnel the money toward the commuters. Legislators wrote the $243,000 into the budget after Astorino took it out, and then overrode his veto of the funding.
“It’s mean-spirited to say that because you made a decision to eliminate something and that the board, in its infinite wisdom, decided that it was going to put that money back, you were going to punish those people by eliminating that route, instead of having a conversation with them,” Jenkins said.
Legislator Michael Smith (R-Valhalla) was the lone vote against the petition. Smith said he thought any savings presented to Westchester should be seized in case the sales tax revenues calculated into the budget don’t pan out.
“Do we reasonably expect that we’re going to achieve the sales tax revenues that are in this year’s budget, that we’re not going to need to make it up somewhere or other,” Smith said. “If we don’t make that money somewhere then it’s going to be a pull on the reserves. You've got to look for these opportunities.”
The administration cut Route 76 after noting its declining ridership in a bus system study and realizing funding it was too expensive, according to Ned McCormack, a press representative for Astorino.
“Although there would be some inconvenience to a relatively small number of people, we have to make tough decisions and we just couldn’t justify giving an $8,000 subsidy per rider,” McCormack said of the 30 riders who weren’t merged onto Route 76 and are now within a mile of the nearest bus stop. “This was a responsible and prudent thing to do.”
Catherine Parker, a Rye council member, said the elimination of Route 76 and the infrequent service offered by Route 13 have hit Rye commuters hard since there is a seven-year waiting list for parking at the local Metro-North station.
“Our commuters really feel that they’ve been left without any option,” said Parker.