LOWER EAST SIDE — Chinatown buses idling at an Allen St. stop have become a "nightmare" for a ground-floor apartment tenant whose window is right next to the vehicles.
For the past year-and-a-half, exhaust fumes have blackened Talia Billig’s window and honking, slamming and customer’s conversations have forced her and her boyfriend to sleep with three white noise devices, she said.
“It's a nightmare," said the 26-year-old musician, writer and filmmmaker who has lived in the rear Orchard Street apartment for the past six years. "It just makes life really unbearable.”
According to the Department of Transportation, three bus companies — Eastern Coach Inc., No. 1 Bus Tour Inc. and UTWT Bus Lines Inc. — are allowed to make 45 pick-ups and drop-offs a day at 18 Allen St.
“Basically a bus comes, I’d say, around every 15 minutes," Billig said.
"It comes outside our window from about 4:30 to 5 in the morning to about 1 in the morning."
The buses typically idle at the sidewalk with their engines on for about 15 to 20 minutes, she said.
“We clean our windows once a week but they turn gray to black,” she said.
Operators typically slam the cargo doors shut, she said, and honk when another bus or vehicle, like a taxi, stop at the sidewalk.
The buses also bring groups of about 15 to 40 travelers, who can be loud as they wait by her window for their ride, Billig said.
Some passengers also lean on her bedroom windowsill, which is about 20 feet from the curb, and use it as a makeshift seat, she said. Others leave their trash behind, which is sometimes cleaned by the bus companies.
“We have, like, three hours of quiet,” she said.
Billig has called 311 repeatedly, she said, but police officers — who enforce the DOT’s intercity bus rules which prohibit idling — usually come by hours after her complaint. By the time they arrive, the stop is either empty or they find the bus is not idling, she said.
Billig has also tried talking to the bus drivers but they became “aggressive” when she approached them, she said. Passengers also got defensive when she appealed to them directly, she said.
“At one point in the summer I would raise the window and say ‘Hey, you know, we live here. Could you be a little quieter?’ and the people would be like ‘You don’t own this street. I’m waiting for the bus and I’m not doing anything illegal,’ and they’re kind of right, I can’t fault them,” she said.
Billig has also tried to contact one of the bus companies, Eastern Coach Inc., which has created the biggest problems for her, but said she could not reach anyone who could help her.
Owner David Wang told DNAinfo he had never received a complaint and disputed Billig’s claims, saying her issues must be with a different bus company.
“The problem is that so many bus companies, they don’t care, they just drop off there even if they don’t have permits, especially early in the morning,” he said.
It is impossible for Eastern Coach’s buses to idle, Wang said, because of the company’s schedule and because other bus operators use the stop. It is also company policy to turn the engine off if the bus stays in place for more than three minutes, he said.
Eastern Coach’s passengers also wait inside the company’s waiting area on 28 Allen St., not on the sidewalk, Wang said. When the bus arrives, an employee leads them to the stop, he said.
Thomas Yuen, the president of No. 1 Bus Tour Inc. also said he had never received a complaint from neighbors. The company only picks up and drops off passengers once a day on weekdays and twice on the weekends, he said.
"We don’t idle because that’s a $2,000 fine," Yuen said.
UTWT Bus Lines Inc. could not be reached for comment.
Community Board 3 reached out to the DOT which agreed to move the stop with the board’s input, according to district manager Susan Stetzer at a Jan. 7 Transportation and Public Safety Committee meeting. The process will take significant time and red tape.
According to a DOT spokesman, It is not against the department’s rules to place an intercity bus stop outside a ground-floor apartment, he said,
“Relocating a bus stop would be a joint effort between the [community board], the bus company and DOT to find a feasible location, and DOT is open to working with [Communtiy Board 3], the bus company and other local stakeholders to relocate this bus stop,” the spokesman said.