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Hell's Kitchen 'Overwhelmed' by Buses

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 04:51 PM

The Port Authority Bus Terminal (Eric Allix Rogers/flickr)

More than 8,000 buses cross the Hudson every weekday, bringing New Jersey commuters into Manhattan. But once buses get in to the city, there’s no place for them to park -- so many just turn around again.

“They’re returning empty back to New Jersey, and then returning back in the peak evening commute empty again. So they’re actually taking up physical road space, because there’s no place for them to stay,” said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. The inefficient round trip is “contributing to wear and tear on our roadways, and then adding to congestion,” she said.

Other buses linger in increasingly residential area around the Port Authority Bus Terminal. 

“This neighborhood is overwhelmed by buses. There are about 3,000 buses in our streets at every point of time, and especially at peak hours,” said Christine Berthet, chair of Community Board 4. The community has the third-highest level of asthma hospitalization in Manhattan, she added, gesturing to a kindergarten across from the bus terminal. “It really is a crisis.”

Advocates like Berthet say this system worsens traffic congestion and pollution. They want the Port Authority to spend $400 million to build a parking garage, at a site called Galvin Plaza on the far west side, above an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. The Authority says it has applied for federal funding for the project, but won't know the outcome until later this year. If the money does come through, changes won’t happen overnight. Andrew Lynn, director of planning and regional development at the Port Authority, said the earliest the garage could be built is 2020.

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Comments [5]

Eric F

Six years (minimum) to design, permit and build a concrete box to hold buses . . . why the big rush? Seriously, this is the apogee of the administrative state. The government regulates itself out of actually improving the built environment under the guise of environmental stewardship.

Apr. 24 2014 01:49 PM

Christine,

It does not really matter whether you've lived "here" for 35 years or 3.5 months. The reality is that the Lincoln Tunnel and the PABT preceded Chelsea's current form, the marketing of "Clinton" as a real estate destination - which could not have existed prior to 1968 when MSG was torn down - and probably before Community Board 4 itself.

New Yorkers chose their future during and before the Lindsay Administration. Breaking with that absurd legacy is fine. But reasonable change must be sought: not luxurious new bus garages when the PABT itself is a derelict and outdated relic AND the entire public transit infrastructure of the city rests on a precipice. See, e.g., the discord of Governor Christie's cancellation of the ARC tunnel and the political intrigue about the Port Authority in general.

If we take it on faith that bus travel has increased - and I don't doubt that it has increased since Scott Stringer recently reported that rents have increased 75% since 2000. But, why would the solution be a $400 million bus garage? I just don't see how that could be the best way to spend money on public transit.

Smarter practices - like no idling and not riding empty - could satisfy some of your concerns while SAVING money. And the PABT could be made more efficient

Further, you could spend $50 million alone on new and better scrubbers for the Lincoln Tunnel ventilation towers. Sure, have another $50 million for the Holland. (This would also address Fred's point about air pollution in other neighborhoods).

It's not enough to say the residents "deserve pedestrian safety and good health," because everyone everywhere deserves that. Even so, that goal is not best achieved by spending $400 million on a bus garage. It's not even clear that the proposed garage would achieve that goal.

Any such spending should be integrated into a regional decision with all relevant stakeholders - not just the interests of a few hundred activists.

Apr. 24 2014 12:36 PM
Fred from Brooklyn

I agree that it would appear that folks have moved to the area without doing their "due diligence" and are now complaining about conditions they should have known before they invested. But congestion and air pollution problems caused by the tunnel and bus movements affect more than just the immediate area. And the term "other people's money" can be applied to every capital project of any public agency, anywhere. But before a garage is built, a study should be conducted to determine if it will in fact alleviate these problems. How many buses would it actually remove from the streets/tunnel? How many buses would NJTransit and the other companies actually park there? A project like this should not be based on "build it and they will come."

Apr. 24 2014 11:09 AM
Christine berthet from Hell's Kitchen , New York

Alan, I have lived here for 35 years. In the last 10 years, Bus travel has increased 23% , the space to park them is shrinking everyday because of the Hudson yards rezoning and development. So yes the situation is new, and it is particularly damaging to old timers who live in affordable housing.
This community residents old and new deserve pedestrian safety and good health.

Apr. 24 2014 10:57 AM

Asthma, CB4 bus congestion, pedestrian safety, and PABT/ tunnel congestion are all bad problems. So, spending $400 million to alleviate CB4 bus congestion - which is news to nobody - is a pretty low priority issue.

For one, the Port Authority and the buses were there before more than 90% of Hell's Kitchen (so-called "Clinton Hill") residents. It's not as though they can say they didn't know. Christine Berthet was born abroad and, in public statements available online, has stated that there are many "new members" of the community. Berthet and these new members could not realistically say there were unaware of the PABT when they moved in.

There are many solutions other than spending $400 million of other people's money.

An idle thought: is the CB4 leadership from old Hell's Kitchen? I'm of the assumption it's lead by folks from Chelsea and Clinton. Port Authority predates the rise and gentrification of both neighborhoods, and especially Clinton.

Apr. 24 2014 08:55 AM

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