LOWER EAST SIDE — A controversial curbside bus stop on Essex Street for Greyhound buses is set to begin operation next week despite opposition from nearby residents and the local community board.
The $12 tickets are already on sale for the first bus scheduled to depart outside Seward Park, the city’s oldest playground, at 7 a.m. on Sept. 27 as Greyhound enters the low-cost Chinatown bus market under new carrier YO! Bus. The plan has been approved by the Department of Transportation despite protests by hundreds of furious residents that led to a CB3 committee recommending the proposal denied.
The new YO! Bus service, jointly operated by Greyhound and its co-carrier Peter Pan, will have the capacity to transport about 800 people each day between the Seward Park bus stop and Philadelphia.
"I was devastated and surprised the decision was made so quickly, without much deliberation," said Rima Finzi-Strauss, a Lower East Side resident of serveral years who spoke out against the plan at last week's contentious community meeting. "People are so outraged."
At the meeting, which was at times reduced to a yelling match between board members and those who attended from the community, local residents presented a petition that now has more than 1,300 electronic signatures against the proposal. Others spoke passionately about their concern of the air quality for children who use the park and how a busy intercity bus stop might change the area.
"It feels to me like it was already a done deal," said Finzi-Strauss. "This community input mattered for nothing."
The Chinatown bus market has come under scrutiny in recent months following two fatal bus crashes last year, prompting a new state law requiring bus companies to seek city approval for curbside bus stops along with community input. However, the law is yet to take effect and Greyhound's application was not subject to it, according to a representative from State Senator Daniel Squadron's office.
Despite community opposition, a representative for Greyhound said YO! Bus has listened to the community's response to its plan.
"YO! Bus strongly feels we have addressed the community's concerns to the best of our ability, including reducing the number of routes, committing to full-time uniformed staff on the ground, guaranteed sanitation pick ups, environmentally-friendly buses and strict enforcement of idling laws," said Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman for YO! Bus and Greyhound.
Originally the service had proposed 14 round trips each day, but dropped it to eight following community outcry, she said.
"The DOT agrees this is the safest and best stop out of several options submitted by YO! Bus,” Daly said. Greyhound had submitted two other bus stop locations — 62 Allen Street and 3 Pike Street — but they were rejected by the DOT, she said.
The DOT also confirmed the permit that will initially be for six months before it is reassessed.
As for residents opposed to the plan, the fight against the new curbside bus stop will continue, according to Finzi-Strauss.
"We fought it yesterday, we fought it today and we will fight it tomorrow," she said.