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Bring back the bus: lobbyists beg for full restoration of B37

Fourth time’s a charm, hope elected officials and community advocates as they took to the cold corner of 67th Street and Third Avenue on Friday, January 17 for their fourth rally favoring full restoration for the B37 bus – a “lifeline” not only for Ridgeites but for all of Brooklyn.

“The B37 is set to come back in June,” announced State Senator Marty Golden, joined by Assemblymembers Nicole Malliotakis and Felix Ortiz, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board Member Allen Cappelli and Paul Cassone, executive director of the Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC), “but it should have been back by January 1– not June 30 or even June 1.”

The speakers were surrounded by members of the GEC, holding high hand-made signs that read, “Bring back the bus,” a message elected officials have been spreading since the route’s elimination by the MTA in 2010. While their campaign eventually proved successful, advocates were crushed by the decision to shorten the route by 10 “crucial” blocks.

According to Golden, the B37 is set to return with four buses per hour during peak times, running between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. The route, which used to run along Third Avenue in Bay Ridge to Court Street and Livingston Street, is set to terminate at Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center Station, a half mile earliet than its original ending point.

“We were able to make these restorations these past few years but they need to finish the job,” stressed Malliotakis, echoing Golden’s main concern that forgoing those 10 blocks would “defeat the purpose” of the restoration, better service for over 20,000 South Brooklyn residents working in downtown Brooklyn.

“Let’s stop playing these games,” Ortiz said, stressing the proposed cut’s “economic impact” on not only employees of downtown Brooklyn but also the businesses themselves. “[This cut] deprives our seniors, our children, our youth and especially our disabled community.”

Golden took another shot at the MTA, adding that full restoration of the B37 is especially important in light of South Brooklyn’s scarce handicap accessibility in local subway stations.

“Ten years ago, [the MTA] approved an elevator in the 86th Street subway station,” he said,  “and we’re still holding our breath for that.

“They’re giving us four peak buses an hour,” he continued, calling the latest setback in this fight a shortage of buses. “Similar routes have 10, 11, 12 peak buses. These people should not have to wait 15 minutes for a bus when others are waiting five minutes.”

Cappelli, working closely with the community on behalf of the MTA, agreed.

“The B37 has been near and dear to all of our hearts and the MTA has put it mostly back but they need to finish the job,” he said, calling Golden and Malliotakis the “Batman and Robin of the B37.” “Those 10 blocks are critical blocks. What they’re asking now is for people to have to get on off the bus and wait on the street; it may be raining, it may be snowing, it may be 100 degrees or five below zero.

“It’s not fair to a community that has never been served properly from a transit perspective,” he continued, noting the still limited R train service in wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Cassone commended Cappelli and the other “superheroes” for their fight. “We need a full restoration of the B37,” he agreed, adding that for his organization, the Guild for Exceptional Children, the Third Avenue bus is a critical “lifeline” for  members of the Guild and that the B70 – the route’s significantly shorter “replacement” – is a poor imitation.

“We’ve been teaching [members of the Guild] to use the transportation and now we’ve had to reteach the skills related to the B70 which comes down, meanders all over Brooklyn and still doesn’t go where it needs to go,” he said. “We deserve better, particularly when people have to work a little bit harder in order to partake in society.”

According to Malliotakis, there will be an MTA board meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the fate of the B37.

“That’s why we’re here,” she said, questioning the MTA’s dedication to all five boroughs. “It seems that the further you get from Manhattan, the lesser quality of transportation you get. We’re here to try and fix that.”

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