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Pols Blast Controversial Greyhound Bus Stop on Lower East Side

By Serena Solomon | September 24, 2012 10:54am

LOWER EAST SIDE — Local elected officials are urging the city to relocate a curbside Greyhound bus stop near a playground on Essex Street following an outcry from neighbors over the plan.

The Department of Transportation announced the approval last Thursday of the bus stop next to the city's oldest playground, Seward Park, a little more than a week after Community Board 3 recommended denying the proposal.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Councilwoman Margaret Chin and State Senator Daniel Squadron followed up by writing a letter pressing the DOT and Greyhound's president to further review the idea and find another, more suitable bus stop.

Low-cost carrier YO! Bus would mark Greyhound's entry into the crowded and often chaotic discount Chinatown bus market, which has recently come under scrutiny for safety following two fatal bus crashes last year. 

"We believe there are more suitable places for this stop, such as near parking lots, on wider streets that are less residential and not close to schools, parks or other facilities frequented by children," read the letter to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Dave Leach, Greyhound’s president.

Greyhound, along with co-carrier Peter Pan, are already selling tickets for YO! Bus, which will use the new stop at 3 Essex Street to ferry customers between New York and Philadelphia. The first bus is scheduled to depart Seward Park at 7 a.m. on Sept. 27, at a cost of $12 one way. 

The letter reiterated concerns previously brought by local residents over exhaust fumes from idling buses and their impact on children who use the playground, which opened in 1903. The feasibility of using narrow lanes on Essex and Canal streets in the area were also mentioned in the letter, echoing the concerns of CB3 committee members, who roundly voted against the stop.

"When a community board speaks with a unanimous voice against an application, we believe that DOT must seriously consider such a resolution," read the letter.

As of Sunday, Greyhound spokeswoman Carolyn Daly said the bus stop is still planning to move ahead at the location.

"We will continue to work with the elected representatives, community board and city officials as we provide this essential, affordable, safe and reliable transportation service to the Chinatown community," Daly wrote in an email to DNAinfo.com New York.

The DOT did not return a request for comment.

The letter also requested that the application be reviewed again under new state legislation signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Aug. 17 that will not go into effect for about another six weeks.

"This legislation will help give stability to an important industry that caused a 'Wild West' atmosphere in Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and around the city, while also greatly strengthening community consultation in the process of locating bus stops," the letter read.

Once in effect, the legislation will give the city ultimate authority on where curbside bus stops are located. However, it will require community boards be given a 45-day notice to comment on new bus stops and allow pubic involvement in the process through hearings.

The six-month permit approved by the DOT will give YO! Bus the ability to transport about 800 passengers daily with eight round trips per day. 

Greyhound had previously wanted 14 round trips per day, but dropped the number prior to the community board meeting. The company also committed to hiring full-time uniformed staff on the ground to manage the bus stop.