Followup: Backlash Grows Against Essex Street Bus Stop; CB3 Meeting Tonight

Bus in front of 7 Essex Street this morning.

Tonight’s meeting of Community Board 3’s transportation committee is going to be a doozy.   As of a few minutes ago, more than 1100 people have signed an online petition opposing an application from Greyhound/Peter Pan to establish a bus stop in front of Seward Park, across from 3 Essex Street.  As previously reported, residents are outraged about the proposal for many reasons, including concerns about street and sidewalk congestion, pollution and loitering in front of an historic playground.  The application has touched off a furious response from many different neighborhood constituencies.  Here are the latest developments.

The original application called for 28 daily arrivals and departures from the proposed bus stop, which is currently used by the MTA.  Community Board 3 confirms that Greyhound has now reduced its request to 16 stops.   Greyhound is making the case that there’s a need for additional discount bus service in Chinatown and on the Lower East Side in the aftermath of the federal government’s decision to shut down 26 interstate operators in the past couple of months.  Greyhound did not specifically request the Essex Street stop; the location was suggested by the NYC Department of Transportation.

The bus stop would be located at the southwest corner of Seward Park.

We spoke with Kelly Magee, City Council member Maragaret Chin’s communications director, yesterday. Chin supports state legislation that gives communities input in selecting bus stop locations.  She also supports Greyhound’s entry into the Chinatown marketplace as an additional low-cost transportation option.   Magee noted that the proposed location is not directly in front of a residential building and Essex is a wide street.  The fact that Greyhound has been willing to work with the community, is a point in their favor, she added.

Silver, Squadron, Chin advocate for bus bill in Chinatown last year.

Chin, along with the community board, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senator Daniel Squadron advocated for state legislation setting up a new permit system in New York City.  Governor Cuomo signed the legislation last month but it doesn’t officially take effect for another couple of months.  A spokesperson for the DOT declined to discuss how the system would work, saying various procedures are still being worked out.  But the Essex Street application (and a second application at 55 Chrystie Street) are seen as an early test of how the permitting process could play out.  Magee noted that the law does not give the City Council a role in establishing permit procedures.  The original bill, sponsored by Silver and Squadron, did give the Council some authority to develop procedures. But working with Republicans in the Senate, the DOT blocked the provision, while agreeing to consult with local community boards.

There will, no doubt, be testimony tonight reflecting many points of view.  Wellington Chen of the Chinatown Partnership will tell CB3 members that the fed shutdown of the Chinatown bus market has hurt local businesses.  He’ll argue that discount carriers are the lifeblood of Chinatown.  In a conversation earlier today, Chen praised the new permit system, saying it’s obviously preferable to the “cat and mouse” game the NYPD has played with bus operators in the past several years.  Federal law allows interstate buses to stop on city streets for loading and unloading. The new permit system is meant to enforce some order to the chaotic situation by designating specific drop-off/pick-up locations.

Meanwhile, many more residents are expected to testify against the Essex Street stop.  Rima Strauss, a resident helping to lead the campaign, told us earlier today she supports the state legislation but is mystified that no elected official has been able to give her a good reason why the Greyhound stop must be located in front of a playground in a quiet residential area.  Asking if politics could have been at play, she added, “why should our neighborhood be the sacrificial lamb?”

The management of the Seward Park Cooperative, located just to the east of the proposed Essex stop, has sent out emails and written notices to its residents alerting them to the proposal and to the online petition.  Linda Jones, a Seward Park resident and CB3 member plans to testify against the application tonight.  People who live in The Forward Building and 7 Essex have also been advocating against the plan.  Jill Fehrenbacher, founder of the Inhabitat web site, has been urging people to sign the petition, as well.

Some residents have argued that there’s a need for a central bus terminal downtown, alleviating the congestion on city streets caused by over-sized interstate buses.  In the past, the DOT has said its efforts to find a suitable location anywhere below 23rd Street have failed.  They support the idea in principle, but say it’s simply not practical.

Tonight’s meeting takes place at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street, at 630 p.m.

 

12 comments to Followup: Backlash Grows Against Essex Street Bus Stop; CB3 Meeting Tonight

  • Blossom

    Excellently written article that fairly presents the different sides in this matter!!

  • alyce1213

    “the location was suggested by the NYC Department of Transportation.”
    Not surprising. Clearly they have no regard for the people who live on the LES and have been clogging up Grand Street for the past year — have you TRIED to take the M14A lately? Twice the time from FDR to Essex.

  • Micah

    “Magee said Greyhound has a strong desire to enter the New York discount
    bus market, which has been dominated by smaller, less established
    companies.”

    This statement makes no sense, given that one of the biggest players in the New York discount bus market is Bolt Bus, which is a joint venture between Greyhound and Peter Pan.

  • Hi Micah, I have adjusted this sentence. Kelly simply said that Greyhound wanted a bigger presence in the CT bus market; I shouldn’t have implied that she linked their current plan and the plight of smaller operators. Kelly did not make that connection.

  • coco

    what is Chin thinking? I like the comment from a previous article and hope it is proposed at the meeting -”
    a bus station at 86 Allen St. was shut down in May of this year, so recently that all the signage is still up. Why can’t Greyhound open their terminal there?” Perhaps there are already plans for luxury condos or bar…

  • There is a need for a bus terminal in lower Manhattan, period. Why is everyone so blind to see it?

  • ‘Terminal’ is the key word here. A bus terminal with indoor seating and bathroom facilities should be built somewhere in the Lower East Side or Chinatown. Curbside pickup for thousands of people per day is generally a bad idea without indoor facilities, much worse in a quiet residential neighborhood in front of a children’s playground.

  • LESider

    At the CB3 meeting tonight there was a huge turnout of people who overwhelmingly and passionately argued for rejection of the proposed location. The bus representatives made it abundantly clear that they are not interested in community, other than saying “we are interested in working with the community.” They repeatedly either refused to answer questions or listed talking points without actually addressing questions. When repeatedly asked if they would ask the Department of Transportation whether they would consider other locations, the only response was “we’ll let the process play itself out.” The issue is not whether there should be a process for bus stop permits – the ONLY ISSUE IS THAT PUTTING A BUS STOP NEXT TO THE CENTRAL PLAYGRUND OF A COMMUNITY IS WRONG!

  • sewardpark

    To Margaret Chin: the proposed bus stop is immediately adjacent to a huge playground and park frequented by the elderly. THIS IS THE WRONG LOCATION FOR A BUS STOP. End of story. A better location would be the bus “idling” location – a parking lot that has already been designated for these buses, between drop-offs and pickups at Seward Park, on Montogmery and South Street.

  • Rima Finzi-Strauss

    Great that CB3 last night voted down Greyhound’s proposed stop at Seward Park. But this is only a first step, partial victory – the key player, decision-maker is NY Dept. of Transportation. Please everybody, contact NYDOT to tell them how you feel about this issue!

  • anon

    I think that this is really a test of local governance. Any elected official that supports this has zero clue about neighborhoods; they simply do not understand them, and should not hold office.

    Further, the reason businesses in NYC are hurting is landlords jacking up rent for the space they occupy.

  • Bowerygals

    The “second application” site ,55 Chrystie Street, is also across the street from a park/playground and middle school. And also needs to be taken into account as the residents there are no less worthy of consideration.