This stop is a go!
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is finally bowing to demands of B44 bus riders who say stops on the controversial “Select Bus” service are too far apart, and is now adding a new stop at Nostrand Avenue and Avenue R in early September. The new stop will cut in half the mile-long distance between the two existing stops at Kings Highway and at Avenue U on the Sheepshead Bay-to-Williamsburg route, which makes the service more accessible for the residents who have been requesting a stop for years, according to the head of the local community board.
“It’s been requested for the last four years and there are a lot of people that — because of disability and age — they couldn’t make it to the next SBS stop,” said Community Board 15 chairwoman Theresa Scavo.
The new stop joins the select bus to the transfer point on Avenue R with the B2 and the B31 buses, which in turn connect Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, and Gerritsen Beach residents to the only local train on the Q line.
The current B44 local stop outside Michael’s of Brooklyn on the Williamsburg-bound route will be replaced with a new stop on the southeast corner of Nostrand Avenue and Avenue R, according to a spokesman for the transit authority.
The local stop on the opposite side of the road on the Sheepshead Bay-bound route will remain in place and will be used by the select service as well, according to transit spokesman Andrei Berman.
The transit authority implemented the select service on this route in 2013 but residents and local politicians led by Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Marine Park) took issue with the fact that several key stops were not included the new select-service route and were left to the local bus.
Commuters on the local bus regularly have wait times of around 20 minutes between buses, while multiple select buses pass them by, according to one longtime Marine Park resident and civic activist who was involved in pushing for the new stop, and says that the new stop will be a boon for senior residents as well as students at nearby Brooklyn College.
“It facilitates going to the junction for students and elderly people like myself, and makes it easier because it’s difficult standing for 20 minutes in 15–25-degree temperatures, or a day like these days where it’s 95 degrees,” said Warren Brahms, a board member of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association.
In April 2015, dozens of seniors joined with local pols for a protest calling on the transit agency to add the stop Nostrand Avenue and Avenue R.
The transit authority and the city’s department of transportation refused to add the stop for several years, saying that it was unnecessary and impractical, due to the fact that the original local stop could not be extended far enough to fit the double-length select buses because it would block a private driveway about 30ft north of the intersection on Nostrand Avenue.
But the consistent push by residents and pols got the ball rolling, according to Scavo.
“Transit kept saying that there was no need, but the local residents and politicians kept pushing and that caused them to rethink it,” she said.
Deutsch praised the transit authority’s newly-appointed New York City president Andy Byford for coming through on improving the select-service network.
“I am thrilled to have been able to successfully advocate for the installation of an SBS B44 stop at Nostrand Avenue and Avenue R, the culmination of years of effort,” Deutsch said in a press release. “I must commend newly appointed MTA President Andy Byford, who has put his money where his mouth is in truly listening to feedback from the community.”
One local who had rallied for the stop three years ago said she is happy about the long-awaited addition, but that in the interim, she has come to doubt that the Select Bus Service is worth the cost.
“My impression of the SBS, generally speaking, is that they’re a waste of money because I see buses go by here empty,” said Cecile Kops. “I’m very happy with the new stop, but the SBS is costing us too much money and the average person is not benefitting.”
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto