Court slams brakes on 14th St. busway — again!

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Hold your horses! …


An Appellate Division court on Friday afternoon issued a stay that blocks the 14th St. busway plan from going into effect on Monday.

The city had been ready to roll out the never-before-seen scheme bright and early on Aug. 12 at 6 a.m. 

Under the plan, between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day, only buses and trucks with three or more axles would have been able to use 14th St. as a through street between Third and Ninth Aves.

M14 buses on 14th St. won’t rule the road — yet — after an Appellate Division court granted a stay, blocking the city’s busway plan, pending an appeal by community opponents. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

Only a few days earlier, on Tues., Aug. 6, State Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower had ruled that the embattled plan could go forward. 

A month earlier — again, just days before the busway was set to start — Rakower had slapped a temporary restraining order on the initiative, saying she needed to see more data from the city to support the 18-month “pilot plan.”

Village attorney Arthur Schwartz went into court Friday to seek the stay, and — just as in July — he was successful. He is representing pro bono Village and Chelsea block associations and condo boards who fear that closing 14th St. to cars, vans and small trucks would send them streaming onto small neighboring side streets, plus wreak havoc on 14th St.

“It will be months before we’re back in court,” Schwartz said, speaking to this paper just before 5 p.m. on Friday.

Asked how he felt after the decision, he said, “Elated. … It was just 10 minutes ago.”

The attorney said that, after Tuesday’s deflating State Supreme Court ruling, he had asked members of the 14th St. Coalition — the ad hoc group fighting the city’s plan — if they supported appealing the decision, and the answer was overwhelming.

“I said it might cost $5,000 to $10,000 to print the record,” he said, referring to the paperwork — in multiple copies — required to file the appeal.

“I got a great reaction,” he said. “Everyone was pledging $1,000 here, $1,000 there. 

“It’s much easier to stop something, than to stop it once it starts,” Schwartz noted of why he scrambled to pull the last-minute appeal together.

In court, five lawyers from the city’s Corporation Counsel a.k.a. Law Department were on hand, desperately doing their best to argue why the stay should not be granted.

Asked how the city attorneys took the decision, Schwartz said, “Were they upset? Yeah. I think they were flabbergasted. … They made the same arguments: ‘There’s no injury [due to the busway plan], this is made-up stuff… .’”

In a statement, Tim Minton, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said, “We are disappointed the City was enjoined again from proceeding with a commonsense transportation plan on 14th St. The M.T.A. looks forward to the day when thousands of bus riders can get where they’re going faster and more efficiently.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

29 Responses to Court slams brakes on 14th St. busway — again!

  1. 14th Street Resident

    And once again, nimby residents block any progress in our city. As a resident of 14th street, I’m very disappointed.

  2. Robert Lederman

    Sanity prevails…occasionally.

  3. Great work, once again, Attorney Schwartz…and to all those who won’t give up fighting this very ill-advised plan which would have such a negative impact on the streets of our treasured Village.

  4. Boeingsandbikes

    Totally makes sense that “progressive” wealthy residents would want to continue the suffering of the poor and elderly who depend on the disgraceful bus system of New York City. Way to emphasize the social inequality. What a disgrace to the history of this once-liberal neighborhood.

    • “EVERYONE WAS PLEDGING $1000 HERE, $1000 THERE.” Yeah sure I bet. All the new neighborhood investor owners not the original rent stabilized working class tenants.

  5. perry rothenberg

    Maybe the Bus ride is a little faster with the busway. But Business in Meat

    Packing will be hurt and local residents will experience tremendous

    inconvenience if this really comes to be. Even though the City built

    protected Bike lanes on 12th and 13th Street, The bikes are coming at you

    from all angles on 14th Street. There is a colony of homeless people on the

    Northeast corner of 14th Street and 6th Avenue also.

  6. Good going, Arther.

  7. Thank you very much, Arthur Schwartz! So pleased to hear this news.

  8. By by Cory Johnson, your political career is done! It is actually a pretty catchy tune. Thank yo for your hard work Arthur in helping keep our streets safe. As for turncoat Cory, have fun with your remaining time in office because you are never getting elected again. AndTrump-like Ellen McDermott of Alt transportation, ,maybe we can try out a bus pilot program in front of your apartment as an alternative?

  9. Buy Buy Cory Johnson

    Hey Ellen McDermott, maybe we should turn the street in front of your apartment into a bus lane instead?

  10. Attaboy Arthur!

  11. Arthur Schwartz: Liked how you said that you don’t represent wealthy people and then telling us how you solicited $1000 here and $1000 there in minutes. Maybe you don’t know what wealth means? Do you think you can get on the M14D and solicit thousands of dollars from people in order to slow down their bus ride?
    It reminds me of your previous lie that objecting to the bike lanes was not about preserving free parking yet your court papers demanded the city to bring the street to its previous state.

    • WhoAreTheySupporting

      The usual noise from anti-car probe zealots can’t defend the fact this was an awful plan, no matter the personal attacks and lies these fake grass-roots lobbyists propagate.

      The DOT/MTA plan included dropping stops for elderly, disabled, families with children and others, in pursuit of slightly higher bus speeds. Does that sound like something we should support?

      The DOT/MTA plan shifted dangerous congestion and recreated the dangerous conditions on 14th on the side streets. Does that sound like something we should support?

      Of course we had to challenge this plan. Maybe it will finally restore some semblance of sanity to the chaotic streetscape that this DOT has imposed on the rest of us (non-bike riders).

  12. It is not only the side streets that would be impacted by the busway.

    What about the 10s of thousands of actual residents and businesses of 14th Street that would be impacted for months, maybe forever, by the increased DIESEL fumes from only buses and trucks on 14th Street

    What the fact that people who and work on 14th Street would not be able to drive home or to their place of business without turning circuitously back and forth just to get to there?

    If you drive on 14th Street now, as I have to do daily for my job, you will notice that traffic has ALREADY DECREASED tremendously and bus speeds have increased because of the new “no turns” that have been implemented.

    Obviously the DOT hasn’t traveled on 14th St currently. That’s a shame.

    The busway was supposed to be put in place solely because of the L train shutdown. As there is no shutdown, there is no reason for the busway. It’s become an excuse for the DOT to impact our homes with pollution and increase dangerous truck and bus traffic on 14th St, only to supposedly help commuters, who don’t live here.

    The DOT admitted that because of Uber, Lyft etc people aren’t taking buses very much so DOT has lost state funding, which is based on usage. That may be the real reason they pushed.

  13. Fed up But happy for the moment

    WONDERFUL. For once, and let’s hope it become S.O.P., the voices of those long-time, Native New Yorkers are heard above those transplanted into our city who know nothing more than sponging off the hard work that made NYC, and Manhattan, a very nice place to live at one time. Now, it’s the transients, who come in, for a few years, make their money, and then move somewhere else, leaving the chaos they, and their elected officials caused.
    The damage done by closing one, if not, the longest crosstown street in the city, would have been massive. 1000’s of vehicles per hour would have been forced onto other streets, and, tying up the feeder North/South Avenues, for what? To save less than a minute or two on a crosstown bus. How about when one of these transients are trying to get to work on the M103 (3rd Ave bus) approaching 14th Street, and there’s gridlock to get from say 16th street to 12th street…Yes, that’ll save time. Let’s not even go to the harm caused to the elderly, any young woman who has to walk those extra blocks at night after coming home from her night job (or even if she just went out after work?), and of course, those of us with vehicles. Thank you Mr. Schwartz!

  14. Anyone who lives here knows this plan is a way for the MTA to line their pockets. They don’t live here. I do.
    Right on 14th Street! Since the bike lanes and new right hand turn lines have been in play, I have witnessed 7 people get hit by cars or bicycles. The back up of traffic, the pollution, unsafe traffic patterns- if you lived here-you would know how misguided this plan is. I don’t have $1000 but I benefit from those who do. Thank you to the residents who contributed and Attorney Schwartz who works tirelessly for us.
    And those in office who we voted in last term, count your remaining days for not putting the lives of your constituents first.

  15. Thank you Arthur Schwartz!!

  16. The best friend you can have.

    Arthur,you did a David & Goliath performance.
    You are the best of the best.

    Bye bye Corey.

  17. Does anyone think the city lacks the legal right to change a traffic pattern on a street?

    So this will be delayed, but it will happen. And the people who gave thousands of dollars to this cause can sleep better, knowing they made the lives of thousands of their fellow New Yorkers, worse.


  18. I live on 14th street and I am totally against this idea. Bad enough that I can no longer park between 8 & 9avenue because of the new parking regulation that hurt exclusively those that reside in the neighborhood but now you want to forbid me from using 14th street?

  19. we need to bring back the bus stops on 14st that were eliminted

  20. I live on 17th Street and 8th Avenue and have been following this issue closely. As a person who biked to work in my younger years and often got forced to the sidewalk by drivers playing chicken, I have a lot of sympathy about the need for bike lanes. But the other stuff…not so much. The select bus service has cut off service for the folks on the West Side below 14th Street and some on the Lower East Side, many of whom aren’t wealthy. The more limited stops have also affected seniors (like me) and persons with disabilities. And for those of us on nearby narrow streets, the traffic we face is frightening. Trust me, I know. There was a time when 14th Street was partially closed in the past, and my street — as the first through street east to west north of 14th — was glutted with traffic. Yes, there are a lot of new wealthy people in the hood, but truth be told, those of us who are middle and lower income are most affected.

  21. Fed Up but happy for the moment

    Though not directly related, please allow me to give an example how the NYC DOT and NYS MTA try to line the pockets of those with clout and screw the everyday New Yorkers who have been here “forever”. I can remember when the Battery Tunnel was 35 cents and the VZ Bridge 75 cents.
    Now, what? $15.00+. It COSTS MORE IN TOLLS to travel WITHIN THE CONFINES OF NYC (Manhattan to S.I.), THAN TO TRAVEL FROM NYC ALL THE WAY TO BOSTON AND BACK, NEARLY TWO ROUND TRIPS!. Does this make sense? One can only imagine the shock of an first time out-of-towner, driving into NY and seeing the sign that the toll to Staten Island is $15.00. A driver from Iowa would think it’s a typo. And let’s give a jeer for the upcoming “Congestion Pricing’, another mess ahead of us. Arthur Schwartz can you help with that one?

  22. A brief comment.
    No one gave thousands of dollars. Block Associations made commitments of $1000 to pay for the record. Meanwhile the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives makes $200,000 per year, Deputy Director make $140,000, and Communications Director makes $120,000. They are the wealthy folks telling residents of the Village and Chelsea what to do. The DOT has already banned left turns, painted a busway, turned University Place around, closed Union Square West, barred right turns going east onto Broadway, barred left turns from 4th Avenue onto 14th Street, and MTA has instituted off-board ticketing. My bet is that they have eliminated the problem without the dramatic shift of vehicles onto residential streets. DOT’s own data says that 1000 cars per hour will be shifted just to 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th Streets. They should study the impacts of what they have done, and rely on real data, not the rhetoric. And anyone who says that the local block associations are “organizations of a small wealthy minority,” doesn’t know anything about our community. I know that Jane Jacobs is smiling down at me this morning, not on Mayor de Blasio.

    • Keep up the good work, Arthur.
      You are the David vs Goliath (DeBlasio, DOT’s Trottenberg, Transportation Alternatives (Uber, Lyft, and other riding sharing companies wanting to take over the private vehicle marketplace in Manhattan)).

    • Sympathy for the devil

      Don’t be so sure! Robert Moses surely watches with glee from the car graveyard we call hell as you desperately try to preserve the car culture he imposed on our streets.

      It’s cute to see you try to appropriate the legacy of Jane Jacobs for your little charade, but like your pitiful lawsuit, it just doesn’t add up!

    • Jane Jacobs supported walkable streets with fewer cars, and fought AGAINST the proposed cross-town highway that would have cut through Greenwich Village. Arthur, you’re working against Jane Jacobs’ vision, not for it.

      You represent the wealthy few, who typically own cars. The poorer New Yorkers are the masses who ride the bus, use the L, and more often live east of Union Square. Where are our voices in your coalition of the privileged?

      Cars are the least sustainable & efficient use of precious street space on 14th Street. They pollute more, occupy more space, injure more, delay buses, and favor the wealthy over the masses.

    • A note on historical accuracy

      With all due respect to both sides who seem to be bandying about the names of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, you’re both partly wrong.

      One of the reasons there is so much congestion on 14th St. and in lower Manhattan in general is because we do not have an efficient means of moving vehicles through the street grid. There was a plan for this: The Lower Manhattan Expressway.

      We all know how that went. Jane Jacobs, who had spent years thoughtfully building her ideology and was sharply critical of Robert Moses highway building “saved” large parts of Chinatown, what would become the SoHo, and the Village from the wrecking ball (and arguably large swaths of the rest from “urban renewal”).

      She clearly won on ideological grounds, and the notion that car culture was the way of the future stopped cold. However, we still live with the results of those unfinished plans to this day. These are the conditions the 14th St. Coalition seek to preserve.

      How, then, are we to deal with a broken system that feeds hundreds of thousands of single passenger cars and through trucks not onto highways but into the grid? One solution was proposed, and it’s still a good one. The Lower Manhattan Expressway can still be built. But we have mostly moved past this kind of building. All over the country and the world, cities -including ours- have taken down highways that destroyed our vibrant downtowns.

      Another plan would be the 14th St. busway, which would give the right of way on a mile long stretch to high efficiency vehicles much like the street cars of old. This would be something Jane Jacobs would embrace as giving Streets back to people.

      It is a disgrace for Mr. Schwartz to try to appropriate her legacy, which unlike his NIMBY effort, was backed by rigorous research and articulated a vision of how city streets should serve all residents.

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