Thursday, December 18, 2008

This Week's Forum West and South

City Approves Proposal for Cell Tower on Top of Maspeth House

Fear Case Sets Precedent Allowing Future Antennas

By Conor Greene

Despite overwhelming opposition from residents, elected officials and the local community board, the city has granted a cellular company permission to place a tower on top of a house on 72nd Place in Maspeth.

At its meeting this past Tuesday, the Board of Standards and Appeals, which rules on applications requiring a variance from the city’s building code, voted 4-0 to allow Omnipoint Communications to place the cellular tower on top of a house at 53-20 72nd Place.

The decision immediately garnered strong backlash from neighbors and community leaders who fought the proposal since it was announced late last year. Under the agreement, property owner Joseph Wroblewski - whose family owns Frank’s Deli next door to the proposed site - will receive an undisclosed amount in rent for allowing the company to place the antenna on top of the house.

Many now fear that this ruling sets a dangerous precedent that could allow cellular companies to easily obtain the necessary variances and permits. That could mean a greater number of towers within residential areas as companies seek to improve their coverage, especially inside homes as people rely more on cell phones over landlines.

The proposal originally called for a 25-foot tower on top of the house, rising a total of 54 feet above street level. As a result of community opposition, the company scaled back its proposal to a 19-foot tower that will rise 45 feet above street level. The diameter of the antenna, which will be disgusted as a flagpole with an American flag at the top, has been reduced from 36 inches to 32 inches.

Maspeth resident Manny Caruana fears that quiet residential neighborhoods such as this are being destroyed by greedy developers and companies. “Quite honestly it seems like we no longer have control over our own neighborhoods,” he said. “They can just come in and do what they want... Our quality of life doesn’t mean a damn thing and our investment in the community and in our homes doesn’t seem to matter.”

Caruana said he is concerned that the decision will mean other cellular companies will come in and offer homeowners “big bucks” to allow cellular towers on their homes. He noted that Wroblewski lives on Long Island and rents out the house where the tower will be placed. “Quite obviously, he bought this house to make money and doesn’t care about the community,” he said. “Anybody who does certainly wouldn’t do this.”

Wroblewski initially said he tried to back out of the contract after neighbors objected, but was not able to. He refused to say how much rent he will receive from Omnipoint, and has stopped speaking with the media about the matter.

For Caruana, that public hearings were held during the day in Manhattan only adds insult to injury. “Had these hearings been held in the area affected, you would have had thousands of people there and it might have been a different outcome,” he said. “It is held in Manhattan, with Manhattan people making decisions for Queens. We should have another venue to challenge this decision. It leaves absolutely no recourse.”

He is not the only resident angry over the vote. Diane DeSilvia, a 72nd Place resident who helped organize opposition to the application, called the decision “outrageous” and said it “could allow cell companies to invade residential areas everywhere with structures that do not belong where people live.”

Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5 – which overwhelmingly rejected the proposal – agreed that this could set a bad precedent. “I would say there is certainly a possibility [that wireless companies will have an easier time gaining variances] but hopefully they would have to do a very good job proving there is a lack of service in that area,” he said. “I don’t like it at all.”

In a statement, Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth) said she is “angry” over the board’s decision.

“It is an inappropriate intrusion on a peaceful residential block and it should not have been permitted,” she said. “I want to warn... any other cellular company that seeks to use this case as a precedent: get ready for a fight! We will continue to strongly oppose any other plan that seeks to place a cell tower on any residential block in my district.”

In the meantime, residents such as Caruana are left wondering about the rational behind the board’s decision, and what the next step is. “I was very hopeful they were going to disapprove this tower,” he said. “It is in the middle of a bunch of one-and-two-family homes... I don’t know if there are any other steps we can take, but we will be looking into it.”

Gas Tanks Park Unveiled at Board Meeting

By Conor Greene

A presentation on the city’s new park at the former Elmhurst Gas Tanks property highlighted this month’s Community Board 5 meeting last Wednesday in Ridgewood.

Several other topics, including parking restrictions along Gates Avenue and the closing of a nearby firehouse during overnight hours were discussed at the board’s holiday gathering in the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council on Myrtle Avenue.

Gas Tanks Park Phase Two

Representatives from the city Parks Department provided board members and residents with an update of progress on a park being created at the site of the former Elmhurst Gas Tanks property at 79th Street and Grand Avenue.

During the project’s $8.25 million first phase, the park’s footprint was established and the landscaping was installed as hundreds of trees, several large boulders and tons of clean fill was brought to the six-acre site. The Parks Department is now looking ahead to phase two, which is currently in the design phase. A rendering created by the department calls for a playground, comfort station, lawn areas, ballfields and a Vietnam War memorial.

Construction on phase two is expected to begin next fall and be completed by winter 2010. The total project cost is expected to be about $20 million, much of which was funded by mayoral and City Council allocations, according to the Parks Department.

The site is being developed as a “passive park,” meaning it won’t have soccer or baseball fields. However, it will include an artificial turf field that can be used for informal pickup games. In addition, tons of fill have been brought in to create contours on the site, which previously was flat.

For local residents and civic leaders, the park taking shape has been a long time coming. The effort started more than a decade ago, when energy company Keyspan began dismantling the gas tanks in 1996. In 2001, it announced plans to sell the property for development of a big box retail store such as a Home Depot.

At that point, members of local groups such as the Juniper Park Civic Association worked with elected officials including former Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) and Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth) to prevent a Home Depot from being built at the site. In 2005, Keyspan sold the property to the city for one dollar, paving the way for a much needed park to be built there.

Gates Avenue Parking Rules

Werner Klun, representing Gotscheer Hall, asked the board to consider easing overnight parking restrictions along Gates Avenue in Ridgewood to provide more parking for customers.

The hall, which has been in the neighborhood since 1924, is facing a declining customer base, said Klun, in part because it is difficult for patrons - especially seniors - to find parking. As a result, the hall, located on Fairview Avenue, is asking the board to allow parking along both sides of Gates Avenue between Seneca and Grandview avenues to help the parking situation.

“It would not interfere with rush hour [traffic] and will help alleviate” the parking situation, Klun told the board. “People will be more likely to patronize the businesses and restaurants in the area... Business has declined to a degree.”

Board Chairman Vincent Arcuri noted that the parking restrictions were put in place years ago at the request of the board due to several accidents and to accommodate buses. He said the board’s Transportation Committee will discuss the request in January. “We will probably have to look at how many buses frequent the route, and how many at night,” he said.

Firehouse Closing Overnight

Arcuri said he is concerned about the city’s plan to close the Himrod Street fire station just across the Brooklyn boundary that houses Engine Company 271.

That station is “two doors away from the Queens border” and is the first responder to Wyckoff Heights Hospital, according to Arcuri. It is one of five that will be shut during overnight hours starting January 17 to save the city $8.9 million.

Arcuri asked Gary Giordano, board district manager, to send the mayor a letter arguing that it would “not be prudent” to shut the station overnight since it would impact the area within Community Board 5.

“The statistics are there, but the logic is crazy,” said Arcuri of the motivation behind the decision. “Abandoning southwest Queens at night and a major hospital is wrong.”

Environmental Committee

Board member Brian Dooley gave an update on the Environmental Committee, which recently held its first meeting “in a long time.”

The group has three main goals and functions, said Dooley. First, it intends to “pick up where the flood mitigation task force left off” and continue to examine the problem of flooding in certain neighborhoods. Second, it will keep abreast of several environmental cleanups taking place at properties throughout CB 5. Third, it will look into ways the board can “go more green” through various projects.

“We are at the very beginning of this environmental committee... but I think we will get a lot of support on it,” said Dooley.

Dooley also provided a quick update on several roads projects. The water and sewer replacement project is underway along Maurice and 54th avenues in Maspeth, with the next phase expected to take place at night. However, the plan to reconstruct streets in south Middle Village has been “scaled back” and “pushed back a couple of years.”

Land Use Committee Projects

Walter Sanchez, chair of the board’s Land Use Committee, updated members on several local projects. He said the committee is scheduled to meet in January with Queens Director of City Planning John Young regarding the stalled down-zoning effort.

Tom Smith from city planning told the board that the department is “putting the final touches on what it’s going to present” to the committee. “We want it to be finished so we can take your input back,” he said.

Sanchez also gave a quick update on the proposal to place a cellular tower on top of a 72nd Place house in Maspeth and the city’s plan to build a 1,000-seat school at 74th Street and Grand Avenue in Maspeth (see related stories in this issue).

Hearing Held on Ridgewood Landmarking

Mathews Flats Provided Housing for Immigrant Workers

By Conor Greene

A push to have a small area of Ridgewood designated as a historic district cleared a hurdle this week when a public hearing was held before the Landmark Preservation Commission.

Local preservationists and elected officials are seeking to have the nearly four-block area, which features 91 buildings known as Mathews Flats, given landmark status to preserve it from major alternations. The blocks feature rows of the spacious flats, which became a nationwide model for providing housing for working-class immigrants in the early 20th century.

The three-story, six-apartment buildings were constructed between 1908 and 1911 by German developer Gustave X. Mathews, and included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The area being considered for landmark status is bounded by Forest Avenue, Woodbine Street, Fairview Avenue and Linden Street. A city report on the Mathews flats emphasizes significant details of the Renaissance and Romanesque Revival style buildings, including their brickwork and metal cornices.

Several local residents spoke at Tuesday’s Landmark Preservation Commission hearing in Manhattan, including representatives from the Historic Districts Council and Councilwoman-Elect Elizabeth Crowley.

“I think that Ridgewood has beautiful homes, side streets and business districts that need to be preserved,” said Crowley (D-Glendale), who holds a degree in city planning. “It is interesting that these buildings were built for new Americans, and still serve that purpose today... It’s a look and feel that I don’t think we can afford to lose.”

Crowley, who will begin representing the area on January 1 after defeating incumbent Anthony Como (R-Middle Village) in November, said there are other areas of Ridgewood that she would like to see considered for landmark status once this process is complete. The LPC expects to vote on this proposal once the new fiscal year starts on July 1, 2009, after which the plan moves to City Council for final approval.

In 2000, the city granted landmark status to a one-block section of Ridgewood on Stockholm Street between Onderdonk and Woodward avenues.

Among those testifying at the hearing was a representative from the Historic Districts Council, which is a citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods. In a statement, the council explained that the “history of Ridgewood is important for understanding the shape of our city.”

“The distinctive visual continuity of the Kreischer bricks and consistent scale, coupled with modest, though distinctive, architectural details creates a stable, welcoming environment well-suited for populations looking to physically establish their own enclaves,” the HDC wrote. “The humane touches and human scale further reinforce the importance of the street as a part of daily life.”

The only objection the HDC raised was the relatively small area being considered for designation, since almost 3,000 similar units were built in the area. “The remarkably intact buildings have a grace and a rhythm which only grows as you begin to understand the vast number of them,” the group argued, noting that the area constitutes one of the largest collection of National Register listed properties in New York State.”

The HDC argued that “a cherry-picked few blocks selected for preservation just doesn’t make sense [and] doesn’t reflect the importance of the
development or even its reality.”

The housing units were held in such high regard at the time of their construction that they were featured at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco as a way to provide affordable clean living conditions for immigrant workers.

Also testifying on behalf of the proposal on Tuesday were Paul Kerzner of the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corp, Theodore Renz of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District and a representative from the NY Landmarks Conservancy. In addition, Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg), who represents a portion of Ridgewood, sent a letter in support of the proposal. Nobody spoke in opposition.

A Special Night for Local Athletes

By Patricia Adams

This past Monday night Christmas came a little early to a group of Special Olympian athletes and their families when Santa paid an early visit to the small community of Neponsit in Rockaway.

The athletes were hosted by the president of the Brooklyn/Queens chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Joe Mure, and his family at their home on 144th Street and Neponsit Avenue. According to Joe Featherston, founder of the Rockaway Beach Special Olympics team at St. Camillus, Mure is as much like the real Santa Claus as anyone will see.

Every year Mure holds a cocktail party before Christmas to raise funds for JDRF and also hosts a holiday lighting event at his home, complete with headline entertainment and free food for thousands of spectators who have been showing up for more than ten years to view the extravaganza.

But this year he wanted to extend the network of his generosity and so he reached out to Joe Featherston. Mure was very persistent about bringing the athletes down to see the lights, enjoy some food and get presents from Santa. “Joe came to us over the summer,” said Featherston, “we never had to ask him.”

Then Featherston says Mure kept calling. “So ya commin’”? Over and over Mure called and made sure arrangements were in order to bring the athletes out for a special Christmas treat.

“Joe Mure is phenomenal,” said Featherston, “ and if you look around you, it’s easy to see what his gestures mean to these people and their families.” The people that Featherston refers to are a group of about 50 special athletes with cognitive disabilities that range in age from 8 to 60-years-old.

Featherston started the program about 12 years ago after having coached special athletes at Cardozza High School and the Cross Island Y. He started thinking he’d like to bring a program like this nearer to his home where even more athletes could have access to programs.

Joe Featherston approached one of the members from his own Rockaway community whose son has a cognitive disability. Paul Fitzpatrick’s mom, Regina, responded to the query ,“Do you think people would come to this type of a program in Rockaway?” She answered Joe Featherston’s big question with just one word, “absolutely.”

Regina’s 25-year-old son, Paul, has been involved since the program began 12 years ago in the gymnasium at St. Camillus. They meet every Monday night September through June from 6:30-8 PM. According to his mother, Paul Fitzpatrick missed only one of those meetings in the last twelve years -- his dad took him skiing in Colorado. “He really didn’t want to go because he didn’t want to miss Monday night at the program. I don’t think he’d ever miss again,” Fitzpatrick said with a big smile.

The Rockaway Beach Special Athletes program is open to special athletes of all ages and has athletes from Howard Beach, South Ozone Park and Rockaway in addition to groups that come from Brooklyn. The program began with five athletes and has blossomed to include more than 50.

The program provides sports training and athletic competition for all children and adults with cognitive disabilities. Weekly training is provided each week in physical fitness, basketball, soccer, softball, football, track, floor hockey, volleyball and board games for 54 athletes. The group has a full volunteer staff including about 10 seniors and 30 kids who are in 8-12th grades. Funds to support the athletes are raised within the community, primarily in conjunction with the Wounded Warriors visit to Rockaway every summer, when host Flip Mullen has a block party to support the athletes.

The weekly program allows these special athletes to develop fitness, experience joy, and participate in the sharing of friendship with other special athletes within their community. In addition, the program sponsors three annual weekend trips. Over 20 athletes travel to Upstate, NY to the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Windham Mountain both in the winter and summer. Shake-A-Leg in Miami, Florida is the site of our November trip. Two NY universities host competitive sporting events for the athletes throughout the year. A track and field competition is held at St. John’s University in Queens and Fordham University in the Bronx hosts basketball. Dozens of athletes compete at the events.

But on Monday night, there were no sports and no competitions. There were just smiles, hugs, and lots of lights, Santa Claus and gifts for everyone. Oh, and then there was Joe Mure—the other Santa. “If you want to know what Christmas means,” Mure said, “just look at their faces. Now that’s a Merry Christmas.”

Juniper Civic Hosts Holiday Party

Maspeth School, Stalled Downzoning Discussed at Monthly Session

By Conor Greene

The Juniper Park Civic Association’s 70th Anniversary holiday party featured food and prizes donated by local businesses and a parade of politicians who addressed the large crowd, which braved a driving rain to attend the meeting.

The civic group’s monthly session last Thursday began with sandwiches donated by Pioneer Supermarket and soda from Community Beverage as several hundred members filed into the auditorium of Our Lady of Hope in Middle Village. “We’re not afraid to come out in a storm,” joked civic President Robert Holden.

Despite the festive atmosphere, the evening wasn’t all fun and games – the civic association’s executive board updated the audience on a host of important neighborhood issues, including the city’s proposal to build a large school at 74th Street in Maspeth and the stalled downzoning effort in Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale.

Holden started the meeting by telling the audience that he is hopeful for the future now that the area has new representation on the City Council. “The cloud has been lifted from over the neighborhood,” he said, referring to Elizabeth Crowley’s victory in November over Councilmember Anthony Como, and to the end of former Councilman Dennis Gallagher’s time in office. “Now we have new leadership with new goals,” he said.

Proposed Maspeth School

The city’s proposal to build a combined intermediate and high school serving at least 1,000 students at Grand Avenue and 74th Street in Maspeth represents a “threat” to the area’s quality of life, said Holden.

Earlier this year, the School Construction Authority (SCA) unveiled plans for a 1,650-seat school at the site of the former Restaurant Depot to serve students in grades 6-12. Despite the need for a local high school, Community Board 5 overwhelmingly rejected the proposal due to concerns over the building size, increased traffic and congestion and the amount of students pouring onto local streets after dismissal, especially since there already are two schools within several blocks of the proposed site.

The SCA recently announced that it will present scaled back plans for a 1,000-seat building to CB 5 at its January meeting. However, SCA officials suggested to resi-
dents at the November 25 Community Education Council 24 meeting that it will seek City Council approval for the plan regardless of the reaction it receives from the community board, which acts only in an advisory role.

“Obviously this area needs a public high school – but there are two other schools there and this will potentially put 5,000 students [on the streets at dismissal time] if this is built,” said Holden. “This is going to be a big problem in the neighborhood, for the commercial district and for getting around – especially if it is not only for our kids.”

The issue of who the school would be zoned for has been a key part of the debate, as many who oppose the school claim they would support it if the city would guarantee that it would only be open to local children. However, that decision is ultimately made by the city Board of Education, so the SCA has been unable to make the promise.

“This is the way it works on our sanctuary city – areas like Middle Village and Maspeth get overrun,” said Holden, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to prepare for an estimated one million more city residents by 2030.

A major problem with the proposed site, said Holden, is the limited routes nearby residents have to get in and out of the neighborhood, which is surrounded by the Long Island Expressway, railroad tracks and a cemetery. “It is hard to get around if a few streets are blocked, and 74th Street is an important route,” he said. “People will give up and start moving out. There are other locations for this school. They shouldn’t be on top of each other.”

Maspeth resident Manny Caruana called the proposal a “clear-cut example of over-development” and said that school-aged children already terrorize the neighborhood each afternoon. “These kids will knock you down so fast,” he said. “This is a bad, bad move. They [the SCA] could care less about the impact it is going to have on the community and on the quality of life for people living around these schools.”

Civic Vice President Lorraine Sciulli echoed the sentiment that a lack of city planning has left the area overrun by schoolchildren. “We’re going to have wall to wall kids in this neighborhood,” she said. “We have Mayor Bloomberg to thank for this with his sanctuary city.”

The SCA’s new proposal is scheduled to be presented to Community Board 5 at its January 14 meeting.

Elected Officials Stop By

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) opened his remarks by telling the audience, “congratulations, you all own three auto companies today,” referring to the bailout of the auto industry that was being considered at that point.

However, as Weiner was making his comments, the Senate was in the process of voting down the $14 billion legislation intended to help General Motors, Chrysler and Ford stay afloat during the economic downturn. Before that vote took place, Weiner argued that officials cannot allow those companies to fail due to the impact it would have on consumers and on the nation’s industrial sector as a whole.

“Nobody would buy a car from a bankrupt company,” he said, asking the audience members who have a warranty on an American vehicle to raise their hands. “We are left with bad choices and worse choices right now... I don’t know if it is going to work.”

Weiner noted that one third of all industrial jobs left in America are connected in some way to the auto industry. “The financial industry is somewhat stabilized” as a result of the $700 billion bailout passed to support Wall Street, said Weiner. However, “the jury is still out” regarding the auto industry’s health, he added.

On two more local topics, Weiner suggested that the SCA consider other options for the proposed Maspeth school. “Now that the market is softening... there are more options,” he said.

He also briefly discussed truck traffic, which is a major issue along Grand Avenue. He noted that one truck equals more than three cars. “The city is obsessed with everything except trucks,” he said, calling the area the “truck pass through capital of the entire city.” He suggested that portable weigh stations be used to bolster enforcement.

Councilman Tony Avella
(D-Bayside)was introduced by Holden as the area’s “adopted councilman” because of his assistance to the civic after former Councilman Dennis Gallagher resigned and the area was not represented on the City Council.

Sporting an injured hand wrapped in an Ace bandage, Avella joked that he would like to be able to say he was hurt punching out the mayor over his refusal to send out the $400 tax rebate for homeowners. “I know you are all expecting it [but] Michael Bloomberg refuses to release it,” he said.

In response, Avella and three of his colleagues have filed a complaint in Supreme Court to force the mayor to release the rebate. A hearing on that motion was postponed at the request of the city’s counsel, said Avella. “He has no legal right to hold onto the money. It’s an absolute disgrace... I’ve already said I’m not going to go for that. We pay enough property taxes,” said Avella.

Avella closed his remarks by reminding the audience that, like Weiner, he plans on challenging Bloomberg next year. He took umbrage with Weiner’s earlier claim that he led the fight against the mayor’s congestion pricing plan earlier this year, which was passed by the City Council but ultimately defeated in Albany. “A lot of us fought that fight,” said Avella. “It wasn’t just one person.”

Councilman and Senator-Elect Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach)was introduced by Holden as a “terrific guy,” despite claims made to voters about him in mailers during his successful senate race this fall against Serf Maltese. “If you believe all that stuff [stated on fliers] you would think this guy is the worst guy in the world,” said Holden.

Addabbo, who is headed to Albany after two terms representing his district on the City Council, thanked those who supported him and vowed to win over those who didn’t. “Regardless who you voted for, I’m ready to work for you,” he said, urging constituents to contact him at his district office at (718) 738-1111 with any issues.

One of the biggest issues Addabbo was asked about while campaigning was the stalled effort to downzone several hundred blocks in Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale. The effort has languished in the Department of City Planning since volunteers surveyed the area two years ago.

After being asked about it so often, Addabbo contacted DCP Commissioner Amanda Burden to inquire about the project’s status, which he called “overdue.” He reported that DCP contacted his office last week about setting up a meeting to discuss the project.

Councilwoman-Elect Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale), who defeated Como in a November rematch of this summer’s special election to replace Gallagher, was the final official to address the audience. Holden noted that it is “great to finally, after three years battling our council member, to work with our councilwoman.”

Crowley, who grew up in Maspeth and lives in Glendale, said she has a “strong bond with the community” and is “honored” to represent it in City Hall. A key initiative, she said, is “making sure every homeowner gets the $400 rebate.”

She also said she is already working with DCP to ensure that the downzoning moves forward this spring. “Everyday, we are seeing one family homes come down and three families go up,” she said. “It burdens each and every one of us... It’s going to happen and bring better results for our community,” she said of the downzoning.

MTA Votes on Doomsday Budget

Proposal Labeled “Draconian” by CEO Sander

By Patricia Adams

“Today we fulfilled our requirement to adopt a balanced budget within the constraints of existing resources, and those resources are simply not great enough,” said MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger after the transportation agency held its vote at a hearing on Wednesday morning.

“I have called this budget draconian, severe, and extremely painful, and it is all of those things,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. But the agency maintains that it is trying to inspire support at the federal, state and city levels and relieve the burden from the ridership.

The proposed rate hikes inspired virtually unanimous angst among riders and advocacy groups. “We are looking at least a $2.50 base fare for subways and buses, and $104 for a 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCard,” Gene Russianoff, a lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign of the New York Public Interest Research Group, told the board. “That’s an amount I associated with a Broadway theater ticket, not with taking subways and buses.”

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer recently faced off against the agency, joining with other elected officials and residents, concerning the proposal to remove a rebate program for residents currently exempted from what remains the only intra-borough toll in the city-- the Crossbay Veterans Memorial Bridge – it connects the zip code, post office, community board and police precinct shared by Rockaway and Broad Channel.

“Obviously we are going to continue to fight to get the stream of revenue to the MTA so that the people of this city and state will not have to face this burden. We also have time to fight to hold this rebate program in place.” Pheffer went on to say that this “doomsday” budget will only hold up if all three levels of government involved fail to deliver a fiscal infusion to the ailing agency.

Part of the deficit was made up by a 23% increase in the revenue yield from fares and tolls beginning in June 2009. This increase is projected to generate approximately $670 million in 2009. Hearings will be held beginning in January on the fare and toll increases and service cuts as required by law.