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Long-Distance Bus Lines Are Overwhelming Chinatown, Residents Say

By Lisha Arino | June 12, 2014 7:40am
 Passengers board an intercity bus on Division Street in June 2014. Community Board 3 will consider a temporary moratorium on new stops for similar buses on Canal Street.
Passengers board an intercity bus on Division Street in June 2014. Community Board 3 will consider a temporary moratorium on new stops for similar buses on Canal Street.
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DNAinfo/Lisha Arino

LOWER EAST SIDE — Dozens of long-distance buses inundate Chinatown and the Lower East Side every day, bringing an affordable transportation option to the neighborhood — along with noise, pollution, traffic and overcrowding, critics say.

Out of the 71 intercity bus stops scattered across Manhattan, more than a quarter are packed into several blocks around Canal Street, according to Department of Transportation data.

The high concentration of bus stops — which serve 19 lines that ferry passengers as far away as Florida and the Midwest — has sparked an increasing number of complaints that buses are overwhelming the neighborhood.

Katie Eid, 37, who lives in the Seward Park Co-ops, called the buses a "nuisance" and said they belong in a more commercial area, away from restaurants, parks and residential buildings.

"It’s hard to navigate on foot around that area, and just having all the exhaust from the buses is added pollution in the neighborhood," she said.

DNAinfo created a map showing all of the DOT's approved intercity stops in Manhattan, with colors showing how many different bus lines stop at each location:

To address complaints including crowded sidewalks, blocked fire hydrants and exhaust, on Thursday night Community Board 3 will consider a moratorium on new intercity buses on Canal Street.

David Crane, a member of CB3's transportation and public safety committee, is concerned about recent proposals for new bus stops on the east end of Canal Street, between Allen Street and Essex Street, an area he said already serves dozens of buses picking up and dropping off passengers each day.

"[The bus stops] need to spread out a little bit,” Crane said.

CB3 recently rejected several new bus companies that applied to set up shop in the neighborhood, after hearing from residents who wrote letters, signed petitions and packed meetings to voice their opposition.

The community board's opinion on new bus stops is advisory, with the DOT making the final decision.

The DOT did not respond to requests for comment, and representatives of bus companies in the neighborhood either declined to be interviewed or did not return requests for comment.

Over the past several months, the bus issue has drawn increasing attention from residents and became a rallying point for a new block association, Seward Park Around Canal East.

Marie Saeki, 50, a Canal Street resident, said the city should find less populated places for buses to stop.

"It's disturbing," Saeki said of the concentration of bus stops outside her front door.

Some business owners said they were getting tired of bus passengers asking to use their bathrooms and leaving garbage outside their storefronts.

"Every morning, we have to pick up the garbage here,” said Wally Corrales, who owns the 12 Corners coffeeshop at 155 E. Broadway.

Sabrina de Sousa, co-owner of Dimes NYC at 143 Division St., said she is frustrated to see buses stopping outside of her restaurant even though the address is not on the DOT's list as a permitted stop.

“We’re just constantly telling the people that are sitting [on Dime NYC's outdoor benches] to not block our doorway," she said. "Sometimes they get very aggressive, and they curse at us. It’s become a nuisance.”

The restaurant has tried calling 311, but that hasn't solved the issue, de Sousa said.

City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents Chinatown, said she understood the concerns about the number of buses, but she also pointed out that the bus lines "play an important role in the local economy."

"The key here is to balance the economic value of those intercity buses with legitimate concerns about saturation," she said. "We can find that balance by making sure the permitting process is more transparent and community-focused, and I will continue to work with DOT and Community Board 3 to make that happen.”

Community Board 3’s transportation and public safety committee meeting is open to the public. It will take place at 6:30 p.m. on June 12 at the Seward Park Community Room, 266 E. Broadway.