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Plan for Seward Park Bus Stop Denied After Protests

By Serena Solomon | September 12, 2012 8:16am | Updated on September 12, 2012 9:36am

LOWER EAST SIDE — A plan to put a Greyhound bus stop next to a Lower East Side playground has been denied after a protest by hundreds of furious opponents.

The bus company had proposed the curbside stop next to Seward Park in Essex Street, which was the first public playground in Manhattan when it was built in 1903.

But Community Board 3's transportation committee unanimously rejected the plan Tuesday night.

Greyhound, along with co-carrier Peter Pan, is hoping to launch a new YO! Bus service to ferry customers between New York and Philadelphia for $12 one way, which would make it the latest company to enter the already crowded Chinatown budget bus market.

With its vote, the committee requested the Department of Transportation and Greyhound return with alternative bus stop locations that would provide customers with facilities such as bathrooms and shelter. 

"There is no logic to have a bus stop right next to a playground," said Essex Street resident Michael Feder, 41, summing up an argument that was repeated by different residents at the meeting.

"It doesn't deserve to have a bus stop with 100 people coming and going each hour," he said of the park and playground where Essex Street meets East Broadway.

The Greyhound proposal, first reported by DNAinfo.com/New York last month, asked for eight pickups and eight drop offs, which was reduced from the original request of 14 each.

"We have been paying attention to what has been written in the news," said consultant for greyhound, Christian DiPalermo, of the decision to lessen the trips.

The YO! Bus would have an initial six-month permit to operate between April and November next year.

The eight round trips would have started from 7am with the last drop off at 8:30 pm. A ticketing office would have been located at 98 East Broadway and the company had proposed that buses wait at a private holding lot on the corner of Montgomery and South Street.

After the meeting, which occasionally descended into shouting matches between the committee members and residents, DiPalermo said YO! Bus would continue to take onboard the community's concerns.

"We believe we will be providing a high level and safe service to the community," he said, often reminding the meeting of Greyhound and Peter Pan's positive safety record. 

Local resident Dr. Naftali Bechar, who lives in the Forward Building with a view of Seward Park, prepared a report outlining his concern for the impact of additional diesel fuel from the added bus service.

"Exposure to these pollutants near a park, a playground and a densely populated surrounding residential area will increase health hazards especially to vulnerable populations such as young children, pregnant women," he wrote in the report.

He also told DNAinfo.com New York he was concerned that those who currently use the park might be displaced by crowds of people who wait to board buses.

"There is tai chi, dancing and children playing," he said.

Another local resident and member of the group "Friends of Seward Park," Linda Jones, presented an online petition to the committee with more than 1,200 electronic signatures.

"Why not use Allen Street?" she asked the packed meeting.

Jones pointed YO! Bus in the direction of numerous vacant storefronts on Allen Street that once housed now-shuttered bus companies, with indoor room for customers before trips and bathroom facilities that Seward Park does not provide.

Wellington Chen from the Chinatown Partnership gave his support to more bus stops in the area sighting the economic benefits.

"This is vital for out future," said Chen, of the bus industry in Chinatown.

"You might not like this location, but please work together to find an alternative location," Chen added.

Greyhound's head of operations, Michael Fleischhauer, told the meeting the company had looked at two other possible bus stop locations — 62 Allen Street and 3 Pike Street.

However, according to Fleischauer, those were shot down by the DOT due to MTA services already in operation or the city’s much delayed bike share program.