Hop on board!
Monday, March 27 marked the first day that the 53rd Street station closed in both directions in an effort to renovate and modernize the station. Days after Sunset Park residents complained over the lack of advance notice and signs in multi-languages, attorney and candidate for the 38th Council District seat Delvis Valdes, using his own funds, provided a shuttle bus for the first morning rush hour of the closure.
The bus drove passengers from the shuttered stop to the 45th Street station during a rainy commute.
“I took it upon myself [and rented] a bus on Friday [March 24],” he said. “We put up a few notices, put it on Facebook and told people we were going to shuttle them to the nearest station. I was able to get the shuttle bus on one hour’s notice. It wasn’t difficult at all and that’s a private citizen doing this. Imagine if I was the elected representative of this area.”
Commuters that were unaware of the shutdown were happy there was an alternative, at least for a day.
“For the 100 people who were able to get a quick shuttle to the 45th Street station on this soggy wet morning, this was a wonderful commute alternative,” said Sunset Park resident Gloria Patricia Novoa.
“I did not know my subway stop would be closed today,” added Nilda Rodriguez. “I’m a senior and it’s hard for me to walk, so I am very happy that Delvis Valdes set up a shuttle bus to take me to an open station.”
“The difference between Delvis and others in Sunset is that Sunset has been part of his family’s fabric for over a generation,” noted Tony Giordano, founder of the Sunset Parker Facebook page. “When ‘we’ hurt, he feels it like a family member. He has been looking at a long-term solution and ways to make sure that the MTA and other government agencies treat Sunset with the respect that we deserve.”
Despite commuters asking if the service would be provided for the six month shutdown, Valdes explained that it would not.
“It’s not something I could pick up the cost for over the next six months obviously, but at least we did it today to show what could be done,” he said. “And secondly, we at least helped those off guard who weren’t ready for it. We were there from 6:30 a.m. and we ran it all the way until 9:30 a.m. and I would say we had a good 15 trips or so and around 10 to 12 people per trip so you’re talking about over 100 people that took advantage of this.”
While current Councilmember Carlos Menchaca held a rally on Thursday, March 23 with local residents in response to the lack of alternative service and proper notice from the MTA, Valdez claims more could have been done in advance.
“There were no solutions coming out of him,” he said. “It was just complaining which we have to do, but at the same time, how about coming up with a solution? The MTA definitely dropped the ball not notifying the community in advance with enough warnings and languages. That’s when you’re supposed to have your elected councilmember stand up and pick up the ball when the MTA drops it.”
Valdes also thinks service could’ve resumed under the right plan. “They could’ve done the east end of Fourth Avenue first and west end of Fourth Avenue without having to shut down the entire station,” he said. “And if they wanted to do both sides of the stations at the same time, they should’ve arranged for alternative bus services and alternative transportation for seniors and parents with children that can’t get to the other station on time, especially in morning when everyone is off to work.”