MIDTOWN — Police launched a crackdown on BoltBus drivers who idle and double-park on West 33rd Street Friday, following an outpouring of new complaints.
With the inter-city bus company’s plan to relocate its West 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue bus stop to Chelsea now in limbo, police in the Midtown South precinct kicked off a campaign to improve the way the buses run.
While the buses are legally permitted to stop on the street to load, police have the authority to ticket drivers for idling, illegally parking and blocking the road.
"You will see, starting [Friday] morning, enforcement there," Commanding Officer, Inspector Dennis DeQuatro, told local business owners at a precinct community council meeting Thursday night, where the owners said the situation has grown so bad that it was threatening their businesses.
On Friday, as promised, a police van spent the morning parked on West 33rd Street, across the street from where Bolt buses, as well DC2NY coaches and various airport shuttles load. Two officers, who'd printed out a list of all the laws a bus can break, sat inside, keeping an eye on the buses as they pulled up, loaded and departed to Baltimore, MD and Washington, D.C.
"We are waiting to make sure all the laws and regulations are following," said one officer, pointing to the list, adding that they'd already written several tickets "for all different things" since they'd started camping out at 5:30 a.m. Friday — though he declined to say how many.
Neither police nor a spokesman from Bolt immediately returned calls for comment about the total number of tickets that were issued on Friday.
The latest round of action comes after more than a year of complaints from residents and business leaders that the buses have created unbearable sidewalk congestion along West 33rd Street near Seventh Avenue.
It’s not unusual to see two to three orange-and-black BoltBus coaches parked along the block, with scores of passengers and their luggage crowding the sidewalk as they wait to board, blocking business and subway entrances and making it nearly impossible for pedestrians to pass.
The situation gets so bad that people are often forced to walk in the road, where the buses sometimes double-park.
“It’s so frustrating for us,” said Noelle Mooney, the owner of Stout NYC and Feile, two neighboring Irish pubs on the block, who described the experience of having to arrive at work via the corner’s subway station as a constant battle.
“I come up those stairs braced and ready to be touched, to be manhandled, to be jostled, before I hit Old Navy," she said, adding that, in addition to long-standing safety concerns, the buses are driving away regular customers — an even deeper blow because of the temporary closure of nearby Madison Square Garden for renovation.
“We’ve had the slowest year ever,” said Mooney, who bemoaned the fact that she’s had to let several people go for the first time.
Tom Dwyer, the owner of the Blarney Rock pub, said he's seen a whopping ten buses on the block at a time.
But while police are eager to issue tickets to cars parked along the block, even when there are passengers inside, business owners complained that they often turn a blind eye to the buses' infractions.
"People are getting frustrated. They're getting really, really frustrated," Dwyer said.
DeQuatro, who has made no secret his frustration over the volume of buses on the stretch, said that the crackdown was intended to help improve the situation while the city and company try to work out an alternate location.
“It won’t be hard starting tomorrow morning,” DeQuatro assured the room. “Trust me… It will be addressed.”
Business owners on Friday said they were pleased to see the police monitoring the buses, but some doubted whether it would do any good.
"I've told the cops that nothing's going to get done until somebody is pushed out into the street," said Joanne Stevens, a media consultant who's worked at one of the buildings behind where the buses load for more than 20 years.
In addition to the congestion, she said she the buses have forced her to restructure her business because she can no longer make sound recordings for clients because of the constant idling noise.
"You can hear the sound all the way up to the top," said Randolph J. Thomas, a doorman who's worked in the building for almost 20 years and said the sound is so loud it impedes conversations. He also complained about exhaust fumes filling the lobby.
"Maybe the tickets will help," he said.
But one Bolt employee, who declined to give his or her name for fear of reprisal, said that business owners shouldn't hold their breath.
"It's really not going to do much at all," said the employee, who said Bolt staff does the best they can to control crowds along the stretch, but desperately need a larger space, which they're still waiting for the city to designate.
"We really try," the emplotee said, shortly before yet another bus pulled up along the street.