BROOKLYN - The city council was packed to the rafters Thursday with supporters and opponents of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's bid to change the term-limits law clashing as two days of hearings began.

Hundreds of people gathered for the hearing on the legislation, which would change the law by giving officeholders the option of a third four-year term.

Many city residents lined up outside of City Hall for a chance to voice their opinion.

"It started [at 1 p.m.], but it started with a whole bunch of other people speaking," says Claudette Telfair, who is against the proposed law change. "The voice of the people is still being muffled."

Witnesses testifying for Bloomberg's side warned council members on the Governmental Operations Committee that rational decisions are needed in tough economic times.

Opponents argued that rushing to change the law through the city council, and not voter referendum, amounted to a "steamrolled legislative process."

Voters set the existing law in a 1993 referendum and reaffirmed it three years later.