A black cloud hangs over Bergen Beach.
A bus depot whose idling coaches are besieging neighbors with loud noise and toxic fumes has kicked its assault into high-gear, locals say. Residents have complained for years that the busses spew noxious exhaust and make a racket at 4:30 am near residences on E. 69th Street between avenues W and X. Now the whole neighborhood is feeling the sting, and residents say they are waking to noise, wheezing from exhaust, and shaking their heads at the depot’s obnoxious drivers each and every school day.
“It’s becoming a problem — not just for the people on the block but for the people in the neighborhood,” said life-long Bergen Beach resident Michael Trotta.
The New Dawn Transit Depot opened nearly three years ago near Avenue X, rising from the wreckage of Sandy-stricken Atlantic Express bus depot. New Dawn, however, is anything but a fresh start — residents remember Atlantic Express as a good neighbor with a more modest fleet of busses, but New Dawn is the “exact opposite,” according to Bergen Beach Civic Association president Michael Benjamin.
The depot’s foul-mouthed motormen are now spreading out into neighborhood side streets, waking residents before the sun rises as they rumble through the neighborhood, filling the air with exhaust, and spouting unpleasant innuendos at local ladies, according to Benjamin.
“The bus company, through their drivers, are treating the community with utter contempt,” he said. “They’ve become disrespectful of residents, particularly women. Disgusting sexual innuendoes and other gestures have been reported, as well, by very credible residents.”
The exhaust is so voluminous that it wafts into homes through open windows and settles into a film upon walls — and it’s causing health issues for local kids, Benjamin said.
“We’ve been advised that some neighbor’s children who had no lung issues, have developed different types of wheezing and lung issues,” he said. “This is beyond ridiculous.”
The busses have begun parking throughout the neighborhood after their morning drop-offs are completed — and drivers don’t think twice about blocking neighborhood fire hydrants, another resident said.
“I see them parked along Avenue W, along 71st Street, in front of fire hydrants,” said Bergen Beacher John Piccirillo. “They’re using the entire neighborhood as a parking lot and as additional space to run their operation.”
In March, real estate lawyer Eric Palatnik appeared at a Bergen Beach Civic meeting promising that his client — New Dawn’s owner — would scale back the number of busses in the neighborhood in exchange for their blessing to build a massive condominium where the depot now stands — a plan residents rejected more than five years ago.
At that time, Palatnik presented residents with renderings showing a more-than 300-unit complex with only 100 park spots, Trotta said.
Residents told Palatnik they were willing to work the developer — despite the apparent blackmailing — if he returned with a reasonable proposal that accounted for post-Sandy zoning changes, but they haven’t heard back since, Benjamin said.
“They never came through with their promise of submitting a realistic plan that the civic, the community, and elected officials could review,” said Benjamin. “We cannot negotiate with just ourselves.”
An individual who answered the phone at New Dawn but declined to give her name said the company isn’t breaking any laws or bugging anyone before hanging up on this reporter.
“Were legally here — the drivers don’t harass anyone in the area,” she said.