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BY SAM SPOKONY | In a surprising turn of events, the Department of Transportation has reversed its controversial decision to place a Greyhound intercity bus stop near a Lower East Side park, drawing cheers from residents and politicians who spent weeks arguing against the proposal.
But a source said it’s likely that the sidewalk location outside 3 Essex St. — just outside Seward Park, which houses the city’s oldest playground — will still be considered for a bus stop at some point in the future.
The move to deny the stop was announced on Tuesday, just days after D.O.T. initially approved Greyhound’s proposal, in a joint statement released by state Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Councilwoman Margaret Chin and confirmed by D.O.T.
Squadron, Silver and Chin wrote a letter to D.O.T. on Sept. 21 urging the agency to deny the application, which would have given Greyhound a permit to launch its new YO! Bus service, between New York City and Philadelphia, for a six-month period at the Essex. St. location. The permit would have granted eight round trips per day, transporting around 800 passengers at $12 per ticket.
Community Board 3’s Transportation Committee had unanimously voted to deny Greyhound’s application several weeks ago. Local residents also created an Internet petition against the proposal, which gained more than 1,300 electronic signatures.
Although D.O.T.’s reversal was immediately celebrated by many in the community, a source close to the situation told this newspaper it’s likely that the agency is keeping the Essex St. location on the table as a potential bus stop.
“I don’t think anybody was actually given the indication that this won’t ever happen there,” said the source, who needed to remain anonymous for professional reasons.
The source added that they believe D.O.T. will simply wait until new intercity bus permit legislation — authored by Squadron, Silver and Chin — goes into effect sometime in the next several months, before offering 3 Essex St. as a bus stop location.
This may prove difficult anyway, since the new legislation requires a more stringent community review process — including a 45-day notice and comment period, and mandatory community board consultation — before permit approval.
A vague statement sent by a D.O.T. spokesperson seemed to further imply that the agency still considers 3 Essex St. to be a viable bus stop choice.
“We will continue to review this [3 Essex St.] and other potential bus stop locations in coordination with the community,” the statement read.
When asked repeatedly to clarify the agency’s statement, the spokesperson refused to respond, and then stopped returning e-mails once this reporter asked whether or not D.O.T. is still considering the Essex. St. location.