New bus lane will make Jewish holidays unbearable: Synagogue members

New bus lane will make Jewish holidays unbearable: Synagogue members
Photo by Kevin Duggan

City transit honchos need to rethink their scheme to sacrifice parking in order to build a dedicated bus lane through Ditmas Park, according to members of a local synagogue, who claim the plan will transform their high holidays into a traffic nightmare.

“During the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the other Jewish holidays, it’s going to be a jungle here trying to find parking,” said Ron Schweiger, who regularly drives 20 minutes from his home in Flatlands to attend services at Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple, located at the corner of Church Avenue and Marlborough Road.

The Department of Transportation wants to eliminate 113 parking spaces on Church Avenue between Ocean Parkway and E. 16th Street to make way for the new lane, which would be reserved for buses from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday to improve service to four different bus routes that rely on the congested thoroughfare.

The agency would also add 59 new metered spaces along seven side streets — six of which would get new loading zones — and on Coney Island Avenue, as well as reduce the length of time that meter spots on Church Avenue between E. 16th Street and Flatbush Avenue can be used from one hour down to a slim 15 minutes.

Dozens of congregates and community members gathered at the Marlborough Road synagogue Tuesday to discuss the plan with Brooklyn Transit Commissioner Keith Bray, many of whom were not thrilled with the scheme to eliminate so much parking, which one temple goer said would hit elderly and disabled congregants the hardest.

“This organization has a significant number of elderly and older individuals who take Access-A-Ride, who drive here, because they do not live close by and they cannot take the bus,” said Flatbush resident Loren Levinson.

Levinson went on to argue that the agency’s plan will upset their Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest that stretches from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and favors Christian churchgoers by not having a bus lane on Sundays, too.

Slow: The Department of Transportation plans to repurpose more than 100 parking spaces into a bus-only lane between Ocean Parkway and E. 16th Street to help the buses along the busy routes, which often have to swerve around double-parked cars and move at a snail’s pace.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

“The congregation comes at Fridays starting at 5 p.m. and Saturday and there’s already no parking. To have a plan that’s operating six days a week, why is it not operating on Sunday, why should it also not operate on Saturday,” she said.

One heckler continuously interrupted the transit official throughout the meeting, while Councilman Matthieu Eugene — who organized the gathering — struggled to maintain order, even as the protester started ranting about city cyclists, which was not a topic of discussion.

“I watch you cyclists break the law every day. I have to look at Twitter and watch my beautiful officers target and ticket double-parked cars because the cyclists don’t want to obey their laws. Don’t waste my taxes, don’t waste my time,” the man shouted as other audience members told him to sit down and “shut up.”

While the greater part of Bray’s audience Tuesday seemed opposed to the bus-lane plan, the DOT honcho was buoyed by a slightly smaller group of Brooklyn transit advocates, who defended the city’s mission of serving the vast majority of Brooklyn commuters, who rely on public transportation over cars.

“The bottom line for me is that DOT’s job and their responsibility to the people of New York is to move people and not to provide any free or subsidized parking,” said Travis Eby, a Park Slope resident and a member of the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance. “A minority of drivers and car owners are upset that the city is no longer giving them something for free that is incredibly detrimental to the functioning of our streets.”

Eby’s argument is supported by Department of Transportation data, which showed that more than twice as many people along the Church Avenue corridor relied on buses for transportation over trucks and cars, and the advocate urged Bray not to give in to what he described as a vocal minority.

“They’re used to going unchallenged at these meetings and bullying civil servants that put a lot of hard work into these plans,” he said. “I hope they don’t water the plan down.”

Heated: Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D–Ditmas Park, left) and the DOT’s Brooklyn commissioner Keith Bray (right) struggled to keep the meeting under control as audience members shouted at them for removing parking.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.