Lawsuit threat vs. 14th St./ S.B.S. plan

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Hey! Hold that bus!

Here we go again. …

Village activist attorney Arthur Schwartz on Monday fired off a letter to the heads of the Department of Transportation and the New York City Transit Authority, putting them on notice that they cannot roll out their changes for the M14 bus — and the reconfiguring of 14th St. — without first doing a formal environmental impact study.

Polly Trottenberg, the D.O.T. commissioner, and Andy Byford, the Transit Authority president, hope to launch Select Bus Service on the M14A/D routes soon, plus transform 14th St. by June into a so-called Transit/Trucks Priority lanes pilot project.

Lower East Side seniors are up in arms that the S.B.S. scheme would eliminate 15, or one-third, of the current M14 stops in their community. Meanwhile, over on the other side of town, seniors living in Westbeth Artists Housing are furious that the plan would cut the Abingdon Square loop at the western end of the M14A route.

Representing Village and Chelsea block associations and co-op and condo boards — in an ad hoc group called the 14th St. Coalition — plus disability-rights activists, Schwartz sued the two agencies and others last year over their since-scrapped “busway” plan for 14th St., as well as the new bike lanes on 12th and 13th Sts., plus the lack of handicap-accessible elevators at L-train stops.

This Monday, Schwartz warned the two agency honchos that if they don’t now sit down with him and resolve this latest situation by June, his clients want him back in court fighting the city’s plans.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, 10 days ago, announced a TTP pilot for 14th St. The plan — the first of its kind ever proposed in the city — would prioritize buses and trucks, while cars would only be allowed to travel one block along 14th St., before having to veer off at the first right turn.

Andy Byford, president of the New York City Transit Authority, right, and Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the city Department of Transportation, at a town hall forum last year on what was at the time planned to be a full L-train shutdown for 15 months. The tunnel repairs are instead now being done on weeknights and weekends, with some L service always being maintained. (Photo by Lincoln Anderson)

In his letter to Trottenberg and Byford, Schwartz noted that Community Board 3, in March, passed a resolution that “vigorously denounced” the S.B.S. plan. The attorney noted that C.B. 3 said cutting bus stops on the Lower East Side would cause “serious hardship” to local seniors who depend on it as their main east-west transit option, and also to connect them to neighborhoods to the north.

In addition, Board 3 conducted a study finding that 15.6 percent of the population in its district is over age 65, and that 23 percent of those individuals have disabilities — “far greater than the average population of persons in the rest of New York City,” the attorney noted.

“The plan, therefore, sharply impacts the elderly and persons with disabilities, who rely on bus transit on a route that is not served by a subway,” Schwartz wrote. “In the name of ‘speeding up buses,’ seniors and the disabled are being ignored. The same is true across 14th St., where for example, a [bus] stop in front of The Victoria, at 5 E. 14th St., has been eliminated despite the fact that building is a naturally occurring retirement community [NORC], with scores of seniors and others with limited mobility.”

In addition, Schwartz pointed out, S.B.S. routes, “as originally envisioned, were designed to speed buses along long routes in commercial corridors. The M14A and D serve residential communities.”

An M14A bus laying over on Hudson St. at Abingdon Square — outside the aptly named Bus Stop Cafe. The Transit Authority intends to cut this western loop from the route, angering senior residents at nearby Westbeth, the affordable artists housing complex. (Photo by Lincoln Anderson)

Furthermore, Schwartz stated in his letter, when a no-cars “busway” was originally slated for 14th St. as part of the L-train full shutdown mitigation plan, “it was pitched and defended as a ‘temporary’ means to deal with 84,000 daily L-train riders who were going to be flooding the 14th St. buses and sidewalks. But that problem no longer needs to be addressed… .

“This [current] plan, including the bike lanes, institutes permanent infrastructure changes,” he stressed. “As such, it is…clearly subject to the State Environmental Quality Review Act. Such a project requires either a Negative Declaration (which would be absurd) or an Environmental Impact Statement (E.I.S.).”

The Village attorney further put Trottenberg and Byford on notice, “[T]he Village and Chelsea communities are wholly united in opposition to the changes being proposed for 14th St. Your studies are nonexistent, public input and objection has not been seriously considered, and there seems to be a lack of concern about the impact on the affected communities.”

Last April, attorney Arthur Schwartz, left, filed a federal lawsuit against the L subway shutdown plan on behalf of the 14th St. Coalition and disabled advocates. He was joined at that time by Edith Prentiss, of Disabled in Action, center, and Judy Pesin, the coalition’s co-chairperson. Schwartz is now warning he may sue once again over the city’s latest plans for 14th St. and S.B.S. service. (Photo by Lincoln Anderson)

The attorney warned the agency leaders that closing 14th St. to car traffic would “cause horrific traffic jams on 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 17th and even 18th St.,” plus all the north-south avenues from Eighth Ave. to Third Ave.

He added, “The bike lanes, which are sparsely used (and have become truck and for-hire vehicle parking zones) will only exacerbate the problem.”

In conclusion, Schwartz wrote to the D.O.T. and Transit top brass, “You must stop, pause and do what is right and what is required by law. This is a plan being foisted on communities wholly united in opposition: It is a plan supported only by political forces who have no interest in and no base in the affected communities. In the absence of the problems which may have been created by the L-train shutdown, this radical restructuring of the Greenwich Village and Chelsea communities must be withdrawn.”

Schwartz CC’d Governor Andrew Cuomo, the mayor, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilmembers Carlina Rivera and Keith Powers, state Senators Brad Hoylman and Brian Kavanagh, Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Harvey Epstein and Community Boards 2, 3, 4 and 6.

After being asked for comment early Tuesday afternoon about Schwartz’s letter, the M.T.A. and D.O.T. had not responded by Tuesday evening.

25 Responses to Lawsuit threat vs. 14th St./ S.B.S. plan

  1. Matthew Arnold

    Arthur Schwartz's claim that the 12th/13th Street bike lanes and 14 A/D bus service changes are a "plan supported only by political forces who have no interest in and no base in the affected communities" is total BS, speaking as an East Village resident who enthusiastically supports these improvements to our dysfunctional neighborhood transportation infrastructure. I know many of my neighbors who are, like myself, thrilled to be riding the new and far safer crosstown bike lanes and are hopeful that we'll soon have busses that can move us from east to west faster than we can walk it. I agree that the city and MTA do need to figure out some compensating measures for mobility-impaired 14A/D bus users.

    But that's not the main thrust of the 14th Street Coalition's argument, which has repeatedly cast a skirmish over incremental street redesign plans in apocalyptic us-versus-them terms, talking of "outsiders" and "commuters" and nefarious external interests (outside agitators, perhaps?) running roughshod over the will of the people! In truth, we are talking about our neighbors and fellow New Yorkers, whether they commute by bike from Brooklyn or catch the 14D from Irving Place.

    I believe that all residents of our neighborhood, East or West Village, NYUpolis or Chelsea, stand to benefit from this redesign — including those living on West 12th and 13th Streets, those bastions of bike lane and busway opposition, who may come to appreciate the traffic calming and quieting effects of the protected lanes, not to mention access to a functioning bus line. But regardless of where we stand on these issues, we should reject this polarizing and frankly downright Trumpish discourse that casts our neighbors as a marauding 'other,' hell-bent on taking what's rightfully ours and in the power of malign unseen forces.

    Come on, people. We're talking about street design, here. We're all New Yorkers, just trying to figure out a way to live together and get around this crowded, challenging, beautiful city.

    • Alt Trans are Trump

      The only people acting like Trump are the Alternative Transportation team that used their money and political influence to take advantage of the L shutdown to push their own agenda and push it through without thinking about the community it effects

  2. As a life long East Village resident, I support you  Arthur Schwartz.

    Get rid of these “piggish” extremist driven unnecessary bicycle lanes on 12th and 13th st. Let reason and fairness prevail.

    • The only things "piggish" here are the people who think that parking and access for personal cars should be put ahead of faster bus service. Move to the suburbs if you don't want bus lanes and bike lanes… we live in a city.

  3. cars and trucks are an important part of the American economy. SBS Bus Service works for people if it is speedy and

    Let's face it time is money. No one wants to take the bus and be late for work or an appointment Maybe SBS should

    be rethought a little bit. Less stops makes faster rides. Maybe some pickup Bus Stops should only be for infirm and

    hand-cap people. Special stops to handle that minority. also the special protected bike lanes are underused and do a disservice to most people local residents and delivery of goods to suffering retail stores and Restaurants. Good Commerce improves everybody's quality of life.

    • The reason for the reduced number of stops is to increase speed. You have bus stops on the M14 that are way too close together.

      And the bike lanes are heavily used and calm the streets they are located in.

  4. I'm thrilled that there's possibly going to be a lawsuit over this hastily-introduced and ill-thought-out Select Bus Service. I've been looking at the idle ticketing machines with dread.

    As it is, many people board the existing 14 A and D buses without paying a fare; making the routes into actual select buses will ensure that even fewer people pay. (A lot of people see new select routes as a bonanza, because no one can seriously inspect everyone's receipts on a select bus; I haven't seen an MTA official stop the bus and go down the line inspecting receipts in well over a year.)

    Lastly, I'm incensed that the MTA would consider stripping stops off the A and D routes; there are those of us who don't bicycle—or Uber—and rely heavily on the buses in our neighborhood.

    • It's more important that the buses travel more efficiently than absorb all potential fares. Public transit is for moving people, it's a subsidized public good.

  5. Martha Gotwals

    Sadly, at age 71+, my bike-riding days are over; walking several blocks takes more out of me than it used to; and I depend on all the current stops on the 14A and 14D buses. Plus I'm dreading the traffic that will come to 17th Street, where I live, the first east-west through street north of 14th. I'm in shock over the recently-announced bus route changes and the traffic reroutes and the fact that these are being done despite the fact that the L train will be running. Please, take your experiment somewhere else, Commissioner.

  6. There's SBS on 86th Street. Is that area any less residential than 14th? I think not. Someone from downtown should give it a try- its great service and I bet the local stakeholders love it. Has Arthur Schwartz ever even taken the existing bus service? I think not. And, if you look at 12th and 13th Street now, the through put is vastly improved. There's less double parking, reduced traffic from people trolling for parking spaces, etc. all of which leads to reduced congestion. Plus, the relocated through traffic on 14th will have 100 other streets to chose from.

  7. Anthony: L.E.S.

    Personally, as a born and bred Manhattanite, now, disabled, I am fortunate enough to have owned an automobile in the city for the last 42 years.As both my wife and I are disabled the parking placard parking is an essential Godsend..
    Though traffic is a 24/7 mess within the city, much of it is caused by the inefficiency of the city itself, with its lack of communication among agencies as to construction/repair times and locations, as well as, what seems the total lack of any reasonable enforcement on the building boom, which is another huge cause of the frustration. And finally, though no fault of their own, there has been an exponential increase in ride share/car service…take a look, as I do….usually 4 out of 5 cars have TLC plates.Many of these drivers are unfamiliar w/traffic protocols, further tying up gridlock. The car is essential, but rarely use it, basically to go the MD app'ts, as mass transit is not an option, and taxi's cost prohibitive. I blame former Mayor Bloomberg, who famously said, he wanted NYC to be like cars (but his). News flash, NYC IS NOT LONDON! This proposal, along with "the "Congestion Pricing" will only ensure continued gridlock, it will hurt EVERYONE in the pocket. Do you think the added cost for EVERY SINGLE ITEM brought in and sold in the city,, is going to be absorbed by the business owners..of course not! And, they have a right to be angry. What's the answer? Perhaps, sit down with all parties concerned, LISTEN, and start from scratch. We native NY'ers who own, and have owned cars, shouldn't sacrifice our way of life for the influx of non-
    native NY'ers who have migrated into the city and expanded the population, raising rents, putting so many local mom-and -pop businesses out of business, for politicians to win their support. COMMON SENSE MY FRIEND SHOULD PREVAIL!

    • Thank you for the listing the real reasons for the increased traffic and gridlock, even the though the politicians currently in power don’t want to admit this, and the fact they enabled and unenforce the real reasons for the gridlock: the unrestrained increase in uber style taxi cabs and construction sites pushing into traffic with no time limit. There are also too many radicals pushing their utopian ideas that bicycle use will solve all of our problems.

      Totally ludicrous.

      • Did you move to NYC yesterday? Traffic was terrible before the app based for-hire vehicles and bicycle lanes showed up.

        • Guest-May 8, 2019 - 2:21 pm

          No. I’m been here for over 50 years and I’ve seen it get worse mainly due the reasons I’ve stated above, under the supervision of the current mayor AND city council.

    • Automotive traffic in NYC has been a mess because there are too many cars in too small an area. Congestion Pricing has long been necessary, along with additional areas restricted from driving. Most of the streets in Manhattan should be pedestrian/bike/bus only with emergency vehicle access and overnight deliveries or daytime deliveries/construction by permit.

      • Anthony: L.E.S.

        Agreed. Too many people in too small of a space. Solution: to start: MOVE. One less anti-auto person to hear whine.

    • You my friend hit the nail on the head. I love my car and they will have to pry it from my cold dead fingers!

  8. Lora Tenenbaum

    It has become clear that he DOT & NYCT are not senior friendly…they always marginalize those with mobility problems. Sadly, neither is Transportation Alternatives, which has morphed into a bicycle advocacy group. They all worship speed over need. The thing is that transporting people Is not only about commuters. Its about getting to doctors appointments, parks, nursery school, visiting family, grocery shopping, etc. Funny they should mention that ridership has dropped in the past 10 years. Remember happened in 2010? They cut bus service to our area and changed routes drastically. Waits became longer..with nowhere to sit.

    Here is a thought: local stops, with seating, during non-rush hours. Keep providing necessary service to non-commuters who need surface transport.

  9. I'm amazed that Schwartz has the audacity to block transit improvements under the guise of a "progressive" group. Nothing could be more regressive than opposing better bus service, which benefits everyone, in favor of cars everywhere all the time, which degrades everyone's quality of life. We go through this drama every time–alarmists predict gridlock and economic collapse, and instead travel times improve and traffic goes down. Newsflash: these are not experimental measures; they are by now best practices worldwide!

  10. The removal of the 5th avenue and 14th street bus stop going west is a disaster for those of us who use that 14th street corridor daily. to have no stop between 6th avenue and union Square is a hardship for seniors and many other others.

    And now we hear that the MTA plans to eliminate the 14A bus stops on Hudson street. I'm all in for suing the city. It seems as if they want to get rid of senior citizens and the middle class. Fuck this shit.

  11. I am shocked and hope tTHANK aARTHUR

    SCHWARTZ foe always standing up for citizens

    Thank you ARTHUR

  12. All of you make me sick.the city has for years made it far more dangerous and inconvenient for pedestrians and cars owner alike . Using fatalities as a way to convince morons like yourselves to force city residents to “shed” their cars and be slaves to mass transit or peddle to an early grave under the wheels of a truck or bus. The elderly….well walking is good for you grannies get hit by a bike and cough up your rent controlled apt, win win. The city has never been this dirty , over developed and congested with choke points designed to cause accidents and fatalities. The point your missing is that you must either become a mindless slave and live a life style envisioned by city government or you can leave if or die. To hell with the old and the middle class because their pesky and can see thru the lies.

  13. Two more cyclists killed by trucks today, I rest my case. As the old rock band queen songs says GET ON YOUR BIKES AND RIDE ……morons.

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