If you walked past the intersection of Essex and Canal streets over the holiday weekend you probably noticed flyers like this one — alerting residents to a proposal from interstate bus companies to establish new bus stops on the Lower East Side. Community activists have launched a petition drive to stop the plans and are urging like-minded neighbors to attend an upcoming Community Board 3 meeting where the requests will be heard.
Greyhound and Peter Pan are asking for a stop at 3 Essex Street (park side) for a route between New York and Philadelphia. There would be 28 arrivals and departures as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 9:15 p.m. In a separate application, Lucky River Transportation Company has requested a stop at 55 Chrystie Street for service to and from Boston. there could be as many as 21 pick-ups and drops-offs daily.
Residents of the Seward Park Cooperative (located just to the east of Essex Street) and the 7 Essex condominium (located right in front of the proposed stop) have been particularly vocal in their opposition. On the “Friends of Seward Park” web site, a number of reasons are listed to fight the plan:
1- This is a quiet little residential neighborhood that will be forever changed by having a bus stop with 28 trips/day (from early morning to late at night) with crowds of passengers. Shouldn’t a bus stop be located in more of a commercial area?; 2- It is right outside a park, a children’s playground-park.; 3- There will be bus fumes affecting the children and other park-goers; 4- Passengers will crowd the Seward fountain area, creating further deterioration of this historic monument; 5- Long lines of passengers with their luggage will crowd the sidewalks and spill into the streets; 6- Many passengers will wait in the park, bring food, and leave trash in their wake; 7- Lots of trash will also be left on the street outside the park as passengers leave behind the coffee cups and food wrappers as they race to board the buses; 8- Waiting bus passengers will also likely choose little Strauss Square as their hang-out place; 9. Unfortunately those waiting a long time may choose to relieve themselves in the park.
So far about 360 people have signed an online petition.
Last Month, Governor Cuomo signed legislation setting up a permit system for interstate buses. The law, which was sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senator Daniel Squadron, was intended to change the “wild west” atmosphere that had developed in Chinatown and the Lower East Side in recent years, following the rapid expansion of the discount bus industry. The idea was to give the city’s Transportation Department the authority to designate parking spots for bus companies. The local community board had been pressing lawmakers for a solution to the chaotic situation for several years. The law does not go into effect until November. But according to Susan Stetzer, CB3 district manager, the DOT decided to deal with these two applications now. In the months ahead, it’s likely that dozens of bus stop applications will flow through CB3’s transportation committee. The DOT has the final say but the legislation requires the city to seek community input. In an email message Stetzer said:
This (new system) will reduce traffic congestion and improve quality of life as well as safety. The buses will have a place to safely and legally load and unload. We are not adding bus stops. We are assigning bus stops to replace random locations for loading and unloading. Federal laws regarding intercity buses do not allow us to deny stops. However, the new legislation allows the city to assign the stops. This will give DOT an opportunity to review the locations and choose those of less impact on residents and other businesses. Buses will not be allowed to stop at any unassigned locations. This will prevent illegal, unlicensed buses from stopping for passengers. It will enable inspection of buses for safety criteria. Bus companies will have to provide information as to where they will layover and where their garage facilities are located. Buses are already not allowed to lay over or idle—this will be loading and unloading only, but this should facilitate enforcement of no idling or illegal layovers. There will also be 6 month permits that will allow us to see if there are any issues with the stop. New legislation allows for community input. Community members know their community better than anyone else. They can give insight as to reasons that some stops might have negative impact. The legislation provides for suspension for failure to comply with regulations.
We have reached out to the DOT for more information on the bus permit issue. We’ll have a followup this week.
CB3’s transportation committee meets Tuesday, September 11, 6:30 p.m. at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street.