In Reversal, City Grants Six-Month Permit For Yep Tours on Pike Street (Updated)

Pike Street at East Broadway.

Pike Street at East Broadway.

There’s a new development in the long, strange battle between Yep Tours, a Chinatown bus operator, and the Lower East Side community.

At last night’s meeting of Community Board 3, District Manager Susan Stetzer reported that the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has reversed course, granting Yep Tours, Inc. a six-month permit for a bus stop on the west side of Pike Street, at East Broadway. Back in February, DOT rejected the company’s application.

Yep Tours has been operating illegally from the area for many months, in violation of a state law requiring intercity bus operators to load and unload passengers only from permitted locations. In November of last year, CB3 voted to oppose the permit, writing in a resolution that, “the company has a complete disregard for the concerns of the Police Department and its adverse impact on the community in which it operates.”

Photo via NYC Sheriff Twitter feed. January 2017.

Photo via NYC Sheriff Twitter feed. January 2017.

The NYC Sheriff seized several Yep buses earlier this year when the company failed to pay thousands of dollars in fines. State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who sponsored the 2012 legislation implementing the permit system, has pressed law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal operators.

At last night’s meeting, Stetzer said DOT has decided to approve Yep for a six-month permit, under which time the company’s operations would be evaluated. We contacted the agency last night for further information. A spokesperson referred us to the city’s Law Department (this story will be updated if/when city lawyers reply).

Several weeks ago, an attorney representing Yep Tours spoke by telephone with CB3’s Stetzer and Senator Squadron, expressing dismay that the permit had not been approved. Stetzer explained that, in voting against the application, the community board followed a longstanding policy of wittholding support from applicants with, “an adverse history” in the community.

This morning a spokesperson for Senator Squadron indicated that he has “serious concerns” about the decision allowing Yep to operate on Pike Street. His staff is gathering information and studying the situation before responding fully.

The SPaCE Block Association has spent months battling against Yep. This morning, the organization’s president, Emma Culbert, said:

The DOT’s granting of an intercity bus permit to an egregious operator who has been doing business illegally on the Lower East Side for three years is atrocious. The DOT has set the bar very low for how intercity buses can behave.  It is clear that the quality of life and safety of the residents and other business owners in our community are of no concern to the DOT.   The intercity bus industry is a highly unregulated yet major transportation industry, which is rife with gun running and counterfeit goods transportation. Further, despite claims to the contrary, traffic enforcement has been non existent as it relates to intercity bus permits in the last few months.  One can only wonder who is getting paid off.  DOT’s allegiance is obviously not to the residents of this city.  Shame on the Department of Transportation.

We have contacted Yep Tours for its perspective on these latest developments but have not received a reply as of yet. Community Board 3’s transportation committee is planning to take a new look at the Pike Street license next month.

UPDATE 4:19 p.m. We have confirmed that Yep last month filed a lawsuit in federal court against DOT, the NYC Sheriff and the Department of Finance. Documents filed with the court show that the parties negotiated a settlement for a temporary bus stop. An attorney for Yep declined to speak about the case.

Click here for more details about the lawsuit.