By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
What’s the best way to welcome back a bus that was out of service for four years? By taking a ride, of course!
That’s exactly what workers from Lutheran Family Health Centers did on July 1, two days after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) reinstated the B37 bus line on Third Avenue.
Joined with community residents and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park), the Lutheran Family Health Centers group gathered at a B37 bus stop on Third Avenue and at 37th Street in Sunset Park for an inaugural ride on the recently re-instated bus. The group rode the bus south to 58th Street, where a luncheon was held at Lutheran Family Health Centers' administrative offices to celebrate the occasion.
Lutheran Family Health Centers, a group affiliated with the Sunset Park-based hospital Lutheran Medical Center at 150 55th St., is a founding member of the Restore the B37 Bus Coalition, an organization of transportation advocates, elected officials and business and civic leaders that worked to convince the MTA to bring back the B37.
The MTA eliminated the bus line in 2010 as a cost-cutting measure.
"The Restore the B37 Bus Coalition fought for three years to bring the bus back because it makes sense for our community members and their health needs," said Larry K. McReynolds, president of the Lutheran Family Health Centers. "From the beginning, we approached the restoration of the B37 as a community health issue - providing patients with access to their physicians and medical appointments. When the bus route was eliminated, the Lutheran family responded quickly. We are honored to have been a founding member of the coalition and very pleased to see the return of the B37."
The B37 bus line, which began rolling again on June 29, will run every day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. between Shore Road in Bay Ridge and the Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue.
The bus operates along Third Avenue for a large portion of its route.
During the four-year hiatus, the Restore the B37 Bus Coalition organized a petition drive and held numerous protest rallies were in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and other communities to get across the point that Brooklyn needed the B37. The elimination of the bus line meant that riders seeking to travel from Bay Ridge to downtown Brooklyn had to do it in a piecemeal fashion; transferring between different bus and subway lines.
Riders said they’re glad to have their favorite bus back. The Sunset Park celebration wasn’t the only event that took place. Several people gathered on Third Avenue and 68th Street in Bay Ridge Tuesday morning for a “Welcome Back B37” rally.
The participants included executives, staff members and clients of the Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC), a non-profit agency that provides education, health and housing services to the developmentally disabled. The guild’s headquarters is located at 260 68th St., down the block from a B37 bus stop.
“Restoration of the B-37 will increase available travel services for individuals with disabilities served in Brooklyn and be an economic boon for the local community by allowing easier access to shopping, medical services, and employment,” a statement from GEC read.