As if last night's hearing about the MTA's "austerity budget" wasn't scary enough, the Straphangers Campaign held a mock funeral today for the Z Train to drive the point home, complete with a memorial wreath and a bagpiper playing taps below Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan. The transit advocacy group chose the line especially because it meant many commuters on the J Line would see their commutes rise upwards of an hour. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to ask Governor David Paterson and state legislative leaders to spare the Z Line from extinction by voting new state aid for the transit system,” Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the group, said by way of eulogy. “It’s curtains for the Z unless Albany comes to the rescue. If not, the Z will buried.” Though the Z may be most emblematic of the severe cutbacks the MTA is proposing, it is certainly not the only line affected. Service on the G Line will be cut short, the R Train will skip three stations at night, and like the Z, the W will cease to be. Additionally, four bus lines will close and 11 others will cease night service, as well as longer waits for buses and trains at night and reduced staffing at stations. The MTA is currently holding hearings on the new budget, which would take affect in July if a new funding stream cannot be established, such as congestion pricing or East River Bridge Tolls. There are seven more hearings planned in the coming weeks. Russianoff was joined at the funeral by two of the three borough presidents affected by the changes, Scott Stringer of Manhattan and Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn. "The demise of the Z Train is a somber matter--and not only to namesake rapper Jay-Z--but also because it represents a more serious problem," Stringer said. Not to be outdone, Markowitz cracked wise his most beloved borough. "Friends, New Yorkers, straphangers, I come to praise the Z train, not to bury it," he quipped. "Though the Z begins in Queens and ends in Manhattan, it is--like the J--Brooklyn to the core. When trains like the Z die, our city’s economy dies with them. This is why we grieve at this mock funeral today. Let’s hope these are not the Z’s last rights. Long live the Z!" But the high--or low, depending on your reverence--point of the whole affair was Russianoff's recital of a Z-centric version of Psalm 23:
“The MTA is my conductor; the Z Train shall not want … (hopefully). Transit officials maketh the J and Z skip-stop during rush hours, providing faster trips. They leadeth the J and Z quickly in the path from Jamaica, Queens to lower Manhattan. But now the MTA sayeth it is very broke and must still the Z, and addeth an hour more a week commuting time for many riders.” “Yea, though the Z walks through the valley of the shadow of death, it will fear no MTA plan: For thou art with the Z, Governor David Paterson. Thy leadership and thy budget staff, they comfort Z riders. Thou preparest new revenue proposals to stop the death of the Z; thou annointest the Z’s wheels with oil; the Z’s subway cars runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow the Z in all its days and the Z will dwell in the house of MTA subway tracks forever.”And, lo, I could hearth yon groaning over mine Wifi.