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Barclays Center-Bound Bus Route Unfair to Low-Income Locals, Advocates Say

By Leslie Albrecht | November 13, 2013 8:50am
 People who live, work and go to school along Third Avenue in Brooklyn cheered when the MTA announced it would bring back the B37 line.
People who live, work and go to school along Third Avenue in Brooklyn cheered when the MTA announced it would bring back the B37 line.
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Flickr/Trevon Haywood Photography

GOWANUS — The MTA is working to bring back the B37 bus line, but some Brooklyn residents say the proposed new route will favor visitors to Barclays Center over locals who rely on the bus every day.

After a three-year absence, the restored B37 would end at the arena instead of continuing to downtown Brooklyn and run only until midnight instead of 24 hours a day.

Though it was expected to resume in January, service won't return until June 2014, according to the MTA.

The proposed route change doesn't meet the needs of public housing residents along Third Avenue in Gowanus and elderly residents who have difficulty navigating the subway using walkers, wheelchairs and scooters, Sabine Aronowsky of the nonprofit Fifth Avenue Committee said.

"The former riders of the bus were predominantly an elderly population that had a lot of special needs," Aronowsky said. "They don’t feel like this bus line is being brought back for them. They feel like it's being brought back for a tourist type crowd who wants to go to events at Barclays."

The MTA's new plans for the B37 are a blow to riders who cheered when the agency said in July that the line would be restored after being cut in 2010. The B37's return marked the end of a long battle by elected officials, advocacy groups and riders on the route, which stretches from Bay Ridge to downtown Brooklyn.

The bus was a lifeline for elderly residents who relied on the B37 to get downtown for church and shopping and to access social services. People have stopped making those trips since it's been out of service, Aronowsky said.

If the line stops at Barclays Center when it's restored, those riders will have to get off and transfer to another bus to get downtown — a daunting task for someone with limited mobility, Aronowsky said.

"We really view it as bad planning from a transportation perspective," she said. "It would discourage folks and continue to create the isolation they've experienced since the line was cut."

But an MTA spokesman said cutting downtown out of the route will improve the overall performance of the B37. The line was losing ridership because it "was often stuck on congested streets in downtown Brooklyn where several other bus routes run," spokesman Kevin Ortiz said in an email.

He added, "Terminating the B37 at Barclays Center will improve the route’s reliability and provide more seamless service for customers."

The B37's return was delayed until June 2014 so the MTA could hire and train drivers, and add new buses to its fleet, Ortiz said.

The Fifth Avenue Committee and Transit Now are urging B37 riders to attend the MTA's Wednesday board meeting and a Thursday public hearing on the proposed changes. The board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13 at 10 a.m. at 347 Madison Ave. The public hearing is Nov. 14 at 5:30 p.m., 2 Broadway, 20th floor.