Residents say that B25 buses traveling between Front and Water streets on Main Street are causing not only traffic tie-ups and noise issues, but pose a significant safety concern as well as the area continues to see an increase in population, especially families with small children.
In 1998, the B25 was extended into DUMBO. On weekdays, the bus used the route that included main Street, but on weeknights and weekends the bus avoided Main altogether, and instead made a U-turn on Old Fulton Street.
However, when the Department of Transportation (DOT) completed a traffic-calming project on Old Fulton Street, a new pedestrian plaza made that U-turn impossible, forcing buses to use the Main Street route exclusively beginning in September of 2011.
Ethan Goldman has lived at 30 Main Street in an apartment overlooking the route for the past nine years. He had been fighting to have the narrow block excluded from the route even before the recent changes. He said the community had no input into the decision made by New York City Transit (NYCT).
“I found out by accident at a community board meeting,” he said, “but by then it was a done deal. I wasn't even allowed to speak before the board.”
Goldman said that the buses, which come approximately nine times an hour, have trouble making the turn from Front onto Main Street. If there are double-parked vehicles, which is often the case with delivery trucks and cars exiting and entering a garage on the block, the buses can't make it down the narrow block, which leads to traffic jams and loud honking.
In response, DOT put up “no standing” signs on the block and made it illegal for vehicles to stop there. Goldman said that hasn't solved the issue with delivery vehicles, and has also led to residents getting costly fines.
“We don't want DOT to clear the street, we want the bus gone,” Goldman said. “We don't want to penalize people to make it easier for the bus. This bus is destroying the feeling and calm of the neighborhood.”
Doreen Gallo is the executive director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance. She said her group has been working since the mid-2000s with then-councilman David Yassky to find an alternative to the bus traveling down Main Street, even when the route was only used on weekdays.
“Even that was problematic,” she said. “The city just took what was already a problem and exacerbated it.”
Both Gallo and Goldman argue that this small stretch of the B25 route has virtually no ridership. Gallo said that she has watched the stop at the intersection at Water and Main streets for extended periods of time and saw very few people getting on and off.
“I have no clue who is using this bus,” she said.
Goldman contends the bus goes down Main Street not to serve the public, but simply as a way for the bus to get out of DUMBO and back into Downtown Brooklyn.
“This is purely a turnaround for the bus, and the MTA has been lying about it for years,” he said.
But a NYCT spokesperson said the area continues to be a “growing destination for bus customers.”
“Our latest count shows approximately 200 people per weekday using the bus stop at Water Street and Main Street alone,” said the spokesperson in an email.
Bill Stein is a member of the Fulton Ferry Landing Association (FFLA), which was an advocate for the changes made by DOT on Old Fulton Street. He says he understands the frustration felt by those living in DUMBO who have to deal with the changes made to the B25, but said the improvements on Old Fulton have been good for the area.
“I think a solution can be found, but what is a done deal is the traffic-calming project,” he said.
In fact, FFLA has suggested an alternative route that would use Furman Street, and Goldman, Gallo, and others living in DUMBO have proposed alternative routes, including one that would utilize York and Prospect streets. Up until now, NYCT has rejected their suggestions.
“All of them did not serve the area, would cause more congestion, or would have been too costly to implement,” a spokesperson for the agency said of the various proposals.
However, Goldman doesn't buy the reasons NYCT has offered for not changing the route. He has reached out to local elected officials to organize a meeting with the MTA to discuss the route, but so far has been unsuccessful.
“I guarantee you that one of two things is going to a happen,” said Goldman. “Either they are going to prove to the community that there is no other way to route this bus, or it is going to be abundantly clear that there is a better route and they just don't care.”
Goldman said that State Senator Daniel Squadron did set up a meeting with transit officials, but the meeting quickly turned into a town hall last October about general transit issues in the area, and the issue of the B25 bus was no longer the focus.
However, Squadron said that the meeting did bring together many of the affected residents, as well as DOT and the MTA, and that the MTA agreed to look into alternative routes. He is still hopeful of finding a route that works for everyone.
"I've been working to bring the community and agencies together to find a safe, long-term solution that makes sense for the various neighborhoods along the route," he said through a spokesperson.
Goldman has collected numerous letters from people living on or around Main Street in opposition to the the current bus route, and will continue to put pressure on NYCT and the MTA to find a solution.
“You wouldn't think that moving a bus a block would be like sending a man to the moon,” he said.