These residents are just trying to clear the air.
Dozens of Bergen Beachers protested across the street from a smoky bus depot on Feb. 12. Locals have been battling the New Dawn Transit depot for months, saying the buses’ illegal idling and thick exhaust are causing chronic health problems for residents.
“It is just a matter of time ’til we need gas masks,” said Michael Benjamin, the president of the Bergen Beach Civic Association, who skipped work to attend the rally. “Buses don’t belong in a residential neighborhood.”
The bus depot, which is located in a manufacturing zone, is operating legally. But neighbors who live across the street from the lot say the bus drivers routinely break multiple rules — speeding, double- or triple-parking, and idling for long periods — especially in cold weather.
Parents say the biggest problem is the illegal idling, which is causing health problems for kids and adults in the neighborhood.
In October, Jennifer DeBiasi said two of her children were affected by the ferocious fumes — and three months later, she said she was taking a host of medications to combat the coughing problems she said were a result of the buses’ exhaust.
It is illegal for buses to idle for more than three minutes, but if a bus driver moves even an inch at any time during the countdown, the police cannot ticket the driver — a loophole one resident said has severe repercussions for residents.
“Unfortunately, cancer and other respiratory illnesses don’t know the difference between three minutes and two minutes and 59 seconds,” said Ann, who did not want to use her last name because she said she has been harassed by drivers at the depot.
Another local said children shouldn’t have to suffer because ill-planned zoning regulations allow bus depots to operate in residential neighborhoods.
“Every single day, children have to take medicine because the buses moved across the street,” said Joe Dai, who led several of the chants at the rally, but was often interrupted by the roar of a bus engine or overwhelming emissions of exhaust as the buses passed the protesters throughout the day.
Some residents suspect that the depot’s landlord Alex Forkosh is using the noxious tenant to “strong-arm” locals into approving a controversial rezoning that would allow him to build waterfront condos on the site. Forkosh could not be reached for comment.
One elected official who attended the rally said residents have given Forkosh fair warning of their concerns, but because their pleas have fallen on deaf ears, the only solution is to extinguish the smoky depot.
“The bottom line here is we need to shut it down,” said state Sen. John Sampson (D–Canarsie). “We gotta take it to the next extreme.”