Locals rally for B71 bus return ahead of borough-wide bus revamp

Locals rallied on Tuesday to demand the MTA bring back the B71 bus.
Photo by Ben Verde

Park Slope civic gurus rallied on Tuesday to demand the return of the crosstown B71 bus, claiming it’s easier to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan than it is to reach Red Hook!

“Most of the subway service is oriented towards north-south, and taking people in and out of Manhattan — not connecting people across Brooklyn neighborhoods,” said Eric McClure, Transportation Chair of Community Board Six. 

The bus route ran from the Columbia Street Waterfront District, up Union Street through Gowanus and Park Slope, before turning back in Crown Heights — right up until the Transit Authority axed the service in 2010 amid statewide budget cuts.

The move deprived locals of an essential crosstown transit option, which made stops at nine schools, three senior centers, and multiple public housing developments, according to one local lawmaker. 

“Students lost a route to school, seniors lost the bus that took them to the grocery store and library and families lost a ride to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and Prospect Park,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope). 

Another Park Slope activist pointed out the lack of alternative transit options to fill the vacuum left by the B71’s demise, especially in Red Hook, where straphangers cant’ rely on the subway to provide crosstown connections. 

“This void represents schools that families can’t choose because they can’t get to them, healthy food options that are fewer, the music lessons that are just too out of the way,” said community board member Kathy Park Price. “This hole represents missed opportunities.” 

Kathy Park Price holds up a map as proof of the lack of crosstown bus service in the area between Crown Heights and Red Hook.
Photo by Ben Verde

Local leaders have pushed for the buses return since it was eliminated in 2010, but they’re renewing their push to resurrect the B71 in anticipation of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plan to overhaul the borough’s bus system. And then there’s the Gowanus Rezoning, which housing experts predict could bring more than 8,200 new residents to the neighborhood. 

“Agencies must plan and invest in smart, sustainable infrastructure to support new and existing residents,” said Andrea Parker, Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. “Both current and new residents of Gowanus will benefit from an accessible transportation route.” 

At the rally on Tuesday night outside the Park Slope library branch, advocates delivered a 1,300-signature petition to transit officials calling for the line to not only be reinstated, but extended to Manhattan through the Battery Tunnel, which would create a direct link to Manhattan for transit-starved Red Hook. 

The Transit Authority should be reinstating the B71 and making other bus improvements, according to advocates, who see mass transportation as a way to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

“As the planet gets hotter, we need to be getting people out of cars and onto mass transit,” said McClure. “For the [Transit Authority] to be contemplating service cuts rather than adding service, is just unacceptable.”