Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
B23 Faces the Axe in MTA Crisis
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
New York, NY –
If the MTA doesn’t get its bailout package from Albany, at least 24 bus lines will be totally cut by the end of spring. One of those is the B23 in Brooklyn, which winds from Borough Park into Flatbush. WNYC’s Ailsa Chang spent a good part of her day on the B23 to find out what losing this bus will mean to its riders.
Slideshow: Riding the B23
It’s 8:50 in the morning and there’s not a single seat free on the B23. We’re rolling along 16th Avenue in Brooklyn, past Jewish delis, Halal meat markets and small clothing shops. Many of these passengers still haven’t heard their bus is on the MTA hitlist.
Alexis Bertide: Oh my God! How come they do that?
Alexis Bertide has been taking this bus everyday for 10 years to get to her job at Lutheran Hospital in Brooklyn. Without the B23, she’d have to take the B41, which means her 30-minute commute turns into an hour.
Bertide: You know, this bus go by schedule. If you know the schedule, it’s easy for you. But now, how come they do that? They going to stop it. That’s not right.
Bertide is one of some 1600 people who ride the B23 every weekday. According to the MTA, without a rescue package, that’s too few people to keep the bus rolling.
As Bertide jumps off the bus, five boys wearing yarmulkes climb on to get to school. About a half dozen yeshivas are on this bus route. And so are some public schools.
Student: Urban Assembly School for Criminal Justice
That’s Ditmas Junior High School. There’s also Edward B. Shallow Junior High School and P.S. 180.
When they step off, the bus does empty out. That’s one of the reasons the MTA is looking to save $680,000 by cutting this bus. That will put the Authority a hair closer to closing its $1.2-billion budget gap. But that won’t help the 300 students from Montauk Junior High School who use the bus everyday.
Student: Montauk Rocks!
It’s now 3:15. The bus is swelling with pre-teens heading back home. Patrick Limage has been driving this route for three months, and says this is his favorite part of the day.
Limage: Every time they come in here it’s like a big party….So we’re going to miss this big party here.
The MTA says B23 riders can take the B8 or B16 instead, both two avenue blocks away. Limage says that won’t work.
Limage: It’s not only the children that we pick up, but we pick up quite a few senior citizens. A flight of stairs is too much for the elderly, much less a round block.
Especially for the ones carrying heavy shopping bags … like Iona Berman, who’s been taking this line for more than 40 years.
Berman: This bus saves my life. Just look at me, look at me. How am I going to walk from Flatbush and Duriya to Marlborough? Tell me. And I love to walk. You see? I have sneakers? LOVE to walk. But not with this. You wanna try? Ugh!
Berman just finished an afternoon of shopping on Flatbush Avenue to get ready for Passover. Her bags are filled with matzo meal, broccoli, red peppers and pajama sets – gifts for her grandchildren.
Berman: I guess when I was younger, I could carry more. And people said to me, why don’t you get an Accessorride? But I’m not ready for an Accessoride… I like to be independent. I don’t like to say, “Oh, can you pick me up from Flatbush Avenue?” That’s ridiculous.
That means riding the bus even today – on her 73rd birthday. Limage wouldn’t let her get off the bus without celebrating just a little.
Berman: Thank you, thank you, thank you! Okay, that was a nice ride! Maybe that’s the last time I’m going to see you, I hope not! I’m going to pray!
At 4 o’clock, Limage pulls into the line’s last stop at 62nd Street, ready for his 10-minute break. But one passenger is already waiting for him to begin his next run.
Limage: This is the end. I’ll be right with you.
Passenger: Can I sit?
Limage: Yeah, you can sit.
Passenger: Thank you.
For WNYC, I’m Ailsa Chang.