West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 10 | August 08 - 14, 2007


Chinatown bus chaos

Chinatown’s private bus business is booming. That this industry has grown to its current level in a little under 10 years is amazing. The rates are cheap and if one is not too fussy these rides are just the ticket.

Yet, while the busy bus business is good news for Chinatown’s economy over all, it also has brought a host of problems that are affecting Chinatown as well as the Lower East Side.

The buses increase traffic, pollution, noise, garbage and even violence, due to the fights that sometimes flare between rival operators in their competition for passengers. Police say it’s hard to oversee these problems because the buses are so spread out. And the buses’ picking up at the curb at scattered locations means traffic is being impacted in a haphazard, irrational way. Residents, in particular, are feeling the bus invasion’s effects.

As The Villager reported last week, the city recently proposed a 30-day pilot program under which all the Chinatown interstate buses would be shunted toward the end of Pike St., with no more than seven dropping off or picking up at any one time. However, neighbors at Knickerbocker Village and the Rutgers Houses opposed the idea and so did Community Board 3.

Plopping a “mini bus depot” in a residential area obviously isn’t a good idea. But the status quo cannot continue.

The Chinatown bus industry needs oversight and regulation. While the bus traffic has not reached Port Authority numbers, it is significant and has outgrown random curbside pickups. Perhaps a more appropriate centralized location can be found — possibly on city-owned property, away from residential areas. But, clearly, something must be done.

Wise move at 50 West

Borough President Scott Stringer gave Downtown a better chance to get more affordable housing last week with the clear “no” he delivered to the city and developer Francis Greenburger of Time Equities. Time Equities wants to demolish the building at 50 West St. in order to build a 63-story luxury tower with condos and a hotel. Greenburger’s plan includes collecting lucrative tax subsidies through the 421-a program and buying 180,000 square feet of air rights from the city in order to build the most valuable condos on the top floors. Stringer said the public subsidies are unacceptable without a substantial commitment to affordable housing in Lower Manhattan.

We hope Stringer’s strong action will be enough to stiffen the resolve of Councilmember Alan Gerson, whose district includes 50 West St. Gerson also hopes to connect affordable housing to the project, but he has not made it a requirement. A stronger stance from Gerson will make it easier for Stringer and others to force the city and developer to include money for affordable housing.

Stringer took the correct position and we hope Gerson and the rest of the Council build on Stringer’s action to obtain an appropriate and decent public benefit from the sale of these city assets.

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