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Harlem Residents Say Bus Depot Construction is Making Area Unsafe

By Jeff Mays | April 12, 2012 10:00am
An articulated MTA bus parks partially on the sidewalk along 146th Street between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.
An articulated MTA bus parks partially on the sidewalk along 146th Street between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority got an earful of complaints from residents Wednesday night.

The agency heard it about everything from buses endangering pedestrians and parking on the sidewalk, to the removal of parking spacessurrounding the re-construction of the Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot at Lenox Avenue and 147th Street.

"Buses should not be all over the place. My granddaughter should not be afraid to cross the street," said Bette White, a resident of Esplanade Gardens, a development of six high-rise apartment buildings adjacent to the depot.

"Half of the bus is on the sidewalk and half is on the street. It should be safety first, especially for all the kids in the neighborhood," White added.

The new $218 million, 70 foot high state-of the-art bus depot is replacing a 25-foot-tall 100-year-old trolley barn that was converted to a bus depot in the 1940s. The new depot will house 122 ultra low sulfur diesel buses and parking for MTA employees.

The depot will also have a green roof and collects rainwater to help wash the buses. The MTA is seeking LEED certification for the building, which local officials hope will also have space for community use.

MTA officials said Wednesday night that they wanted to hear residents concerns and would attempt to address them.

"It's an ongoing battle with the MTA about a situation we don't have complete control over," said Charles Callaway, an outreach coordinator for WE ACT for Environmental Justice and a member of the bus depot re-construction task force.

Callaway said the task force has been able to get many concessions from the MTA, including everything from air testing to pushing back the date where area parking spaces were lost along one side of 147th Street to construction.

"Some of these issues are just going to happen because of the construction but the MTA has been working with us," said Callaway.

But for Bill Cordero, who owns a parking lot on 146th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Lenox Avenue, the buses have been causing problems at his property.

Cordero, who eventually intends to develop his property, said he decided to open the garage after getting complaints from area residents about the lack of parking.

"People are calling and asking can they pay in advance. It's that bad out here," he said of parking.

But his issue is with the buses parking on and cracking the sidewalk in front of his property.  The city has come out twice to repair it at his expense, he said

"My sidewalk is destroyed. It's a liability issue," said Cordero. As he stood a few feet from the entrance to his parking garage Wednesday night, an articulated bus drove on 146th Street towards Lenox Avenue and pulled its wheels onto the sidewalk.

"That's exactly what I'm talking about," Cordero said.

Troy Gethers, a long-time resident of Esplanade Gardens, said the buses pull onto the sidewalk to make room for cars to be able to pass on a street that has barricades abutting the construction of the depot.

"It's a Catch-22 for the drivers," he said.

Gethers says he has seen articulated buses backing up and people scrambling to get out of the way. When people are leaving the complex for school and work at 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. is when it gets extra hectic.

"It's very difficult living here with the buses," he said.

Lavada Wilson, another Esplanade Gardens resident said she watched from her window last week as a man helped elderly people cross Lenox Avenue.

"I just don't feel like they took everything into consideration before starting the construction" said Wilson. "It's been horrible living here the last few years."

The bus depot is expected to be completed in 2013.