Neighborhood Watch Group Battles 72nd Street Tour Bus Chaos
UPPER WEST SIDE — Residents on the Upper West Side fed up with the influx of summer tour buses that they say run rampant through their neighborhood have taken the job of enforcing traffic regulations into their own hands.
Members of the West 72nd Street Alliance have been spending their weekends patrolling the intersection of West 72nd Street and Central Park West, where buses drop off large groups of tourists from early morning until after dusk. The buses clog the intersection, spew fumes, double-park in the street, and send traffic and pedestrians into the street, according to locals.
Six members of the alliance try to combat the problem by walking the street, talking to bus drivers and trying to persuade them to park legally. They also call bus companies and report violations.
However alliance member Ray, who didn't want to give his last name for fear of antagonizing the police, said, "When push comes to shove [the buses] don’t have to do anything," because, as he conceded, the alliance is not the police.
He said they decided they had no other option than to get involved becuase because they don't see police taking the issue seriously.
"[The police] promised to be here on Saturday mornings, but we don’t see them anymore," said Ray. "They keep saying they patrol the area, but they’re not here."
The NYPD did not return requests for comment.
On weekends, Ray and five other members set out to combat the problem.
City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who has made repeated inquiries with the police and the DOT to solve the problem, agreed.
"If there's a police officer there, it's better," said Brewer, who added that a carrot-and-stick approach that favored uisng the stick was needed.
On a recent Friday, with no police officers in sight to enforce parking regulations, and pre-weekend traffic worsening, local resident Paul Yourston weaved past awe-struck visitors and a forest of buses, taxis and cars as he walked his dog.
"[The buses] are always here," he complained. "And sometimes they block the interesection."
Miller, 32, who declined to give her last name, lives on West 72nd Street between Columbus and Central Park West, felt resigned to the buses.
"It would be better if they weren't here," she said, "but it's just the way it is."
The clogged intersection made it difficult for pedestrians to board the northbound M10 bus, for traffic to keep moving and for bikers to maneuver through the blocked bike lane.
If there are no parking spots along Central Park West, drivers such as Carlos, who works for the Skyliner Bus Company, double park while groups take a quick tour of Strawberry Fields.
"They told me to stop here for 20 minutes," he said. "I'm just following orders."
Skyliner Bus Company did not return a request for comment.
The complaints about double-parked buses are nothing new.
Under pressure from the community and from CIty Councilwoman Gale Brewer, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly dispatched the Manhattan Police Task Force in 2009 to tackle buses found to be illegally double parked, blocking an entire lane of traffic or idling.
In July 2010, Police Commissioner Kelly wrote to Brewer's office that "over 200 tour buses have been relocated from the intersection, and 100 parking summonses have been issued, more than half of which have been for double parking in the first two weeks of June alone."
But according to the West 72nd Street Alliance, the task force was only deputized for weekend mornings, and haven't been spotted on the Upper West Side lately.
Brewer asked for the city to attend to the problem once again this spring. In May, Gerry Kelpin of the Department of Environmental Protection said he had generated an official complaint for an inspection to be conducted and that "we will continue to monitor this area."
DEP officials told DNAinfo.com New York that they were aware of the problem but had not received numerous complaints.
Brewer said she was happy the DEP was investigating, but concerned about their ability to monitor the problem.
"There aren't that many inspectors — there are so few of them in terms of enforcement," she said.