Saying no to select bus service along Kings Highway.
Assemblymember William Colton joined a small but passionate group of residents, business owners and others at Kings Highway and West Sixth Street on Monday, April 9 to discuss the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) and New York City Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plan to bring select bus service (SBS) to the B82 route that goes through Gravesend and Bensonhurst on its way to Coney Island.
Colton and other attendees complained that adding SBS would take away precious parking spots throughout the neighborhood, hurting local businesses.
“They don’t get down to the people here on a regular basis,” he said. “They don’t contact elected officials about their specific plans. This neighborhood does not need SBS. They say they are going to start it on July 1 and say they don’t need any permit. DOT issued a permit to itself.”
Despite the fact that Community Board 11 opposed the plan, the MTA is going ahead with it anyway, Colton added. “This is the type of arrogance and lack of responsiveness that DOT and MTA have shown to people in neighborhoods like this,” he said. “We are tired of having our neighborhoods ignored and having the outer boroughs ignored and small businesses ignored.”
Colton contended that adding SBS service along the strip in southwest Brooklyn will eliminate much of the available parking.
“Kings Highway is a business street, mostly with small stores,” he explained. “They are going to get hurt if people can’t park. We are going to lose over 100 parking spots. That means that people that want to go to the pizzeria or the veterinarian, they’re not going to be able to park. They’re going to have to walk for blocks in order to be able to get their slice of pizza or bring their pet over. Many of [the businesses] may end up going out of business.”
Colton also fears the city might add parking meters in residential areas, “So that a senior citizen who may be home during the day is supposed to feed a meter every two hours. When you ask them the question, they say, we could do it but don’t intend to do it. Not today, but what about two years from now?”
MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek responded to the concerns.
“We always strive to be mindful of local impacts when embarking upon a transit improvement project,” he said. “This is one of the busiest bus routes in Brooklyn and we want to be partners with the communities we operate in; we’re in discussion with local elected officials about this route and are committed to addressing community concerns while also serving the area’s public transit needs.”
Nonetheless, residents fear the addition of SBS service will be a burden.
“This will destroy our neighborhood, our businesses, our parking,” longtime resident Kathy T. told this paper. “There is no parking to begin with now. Stores can’t get deliveries now. We have a Key Food here. They have delivery trucks and they pull them up all the time. How are they going to deliver to me? I can’t take my car out because if I take my car out, when I get back to my block, there is no parking. I live on West Eighth Street and Kings Highway. We have too many commercial vehicles on our block. One truck that parks there takes up three cars’ worth of space. Parking has been miserable.”
“I’m a longtime resident of this neighborhood, for 45 years,” said CB 11 board member Dr. Tim Law. “The MTA’s high ranking officials don’t care about us. We have a lot of seniors in this neighborhood. Most don’t speak English or know what’s going on. The MTA has to let the community know what’s going on.”
“This is directly affecting us,” said Larry Greenberg, a local dentist. “[Patients are] often late because they can’t find parking now. They often drive around for 45 minutes. It backs us up. We can’t work, make money or survive here. And we can’t have our older community walking five blocks because they got off the stop down there. This directly affects business owners here. We are a busy neighborhood. People block my driveway because they can’t find spots. I don’t blame them. It’s hard enough now. Our voices need to be heard.”
According to Allan Rosen, former director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning, the lack of communication on the part of the MTA stems from the fact that SBS service has been “tied to Vision Zero and [Mayor Bill] de Blasio has given the DOT carte blanche to ignore the communities where Vision Zero is involved. They’re doing whatever they want with poor data; they won’t answer questions, only the ones they want to and they’re getting away with it.”
However, transportation advocates had a very different view of the service.
“Bus riders endure some of New York’s longest commutes and suffer citywide from increasingly slow and unreliable service,” said Stephanie Burgos-Veras, senior organizer with the Riders Alliance. “Select Bus Service is a matter of transportation equity, which Mayor Bill de Blasio is rolling out in more neighborhoods year after year.
“Where SBS has been implemented, hundreds of thousand of bus riders have experienced positive results,” she went on. “SBS helps people get to work on time, brings parents home to see their children and takes seniors to doctor’s appointments. Bus riders need service they can rely on. Bus riders need more SBS routes, bus lanes and other improvements on local routes to speed commuting times and improve the lives of bus riders.”
DOT added that the change would speed up traffic.
“Along Kings Highway, buses now average five mph or slower from McDonald Avenue to Ocean Avenue (among the slowest speeds in the entire city), making the conversion of the B82 to Select Bus Service a priority,” said a DOT spokesperson. “SBS will bring shorter travel times and more reliable service for 28,000 daily riders along one of Brooklyn’s busiest bus routes. DOT and MTA have done detailed consultation with the community and its leaders about this route for the last three years and we will continue to speak with elected officials in the weeks ahead to garner further feedback about the project.”
In addition, said the spokesperson, “DOT has conducted extensive outreach regarding the B82 bus line, which includes outreach to 7,500 shoppers, 235 businesses, and 1,500 bus riders. We also held 84 project outreach meetings since 2015, including 32 meetings on Kings Highway. In regards to parking, DOT recognizes the importance of parking and, as a result of listening to community concerns, bus lanes on the narrow section of Kings Highway will only be in effect during peak periods, or six hours per day. DOT is also adding 44 new parking spaces to the area.”