By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Transit advocates trying to convince the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to extend the B37 bus route to Court Street instead of terminating the soon-to-be reinstated bus line at the Barclays Center are making significant progress, according to a man with inside information.
MTA board member Allen Cappelli, who has been pushing his colleagues to restore the line to its full Bay Ridge-to-Court Street service, said he was emboldened by the large turnout of community residents at a Jan. 27 meeting of the MTA’s Transit and Bus Committee at the agency’s Madison Avenue headquarters, where the B37 was a topic of discussion.
“It was a very good group of people. I was very pleased to see it,” Cappelli told the Brooklyn Eagle after the meeting. The large turnout reflected the widespread support for the full restoration, he said.
Under the current plan, the B37 will resume running in June after a nearly four-year hiatus. The MTA eliminated the bus line in 2010 as a cost-cutting measure and voted last year to restore the bus line. But the B37, which used to run from Shore Road in Bay Ridge to Court Street in downtown Brooklyn, including a stop at the New York State Supreme Court building on Adams Street, will now operate between Shore Road and the Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue, some 10 blocks short of its former terminus point.
Riders seeking to travel farther will have to get off the B37 at the Barclays Center and transfers to other bus lines or take the subway.
"Asking my 90-year-old grandmother or a disabled person to get off a bus and wait for another bus or transfer to a subway line in order to travel another few blocks is nonsensical,” Justin Brannan, communications director for Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) told the committee at the meeting.
“It’s like dropping the ball at the 10 yard line!" Brannan said.
“I’m trying to get across the absurdity of having to transfer at the Barclays Center,” Cappelli said.
Speaker after speaker, including bus riders, business leaders and elected officials representing communities along the B37 corridor, implored the committee to recommend to the full MTA board that the bus be returned to its former route when it is brought back into service in June.
Cappelli, who also spoke at a B37 rally on Third Avenue organized by state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) earlier this month, urged bus riders to keep up the pressure on the MTA because he believes their arguments are getting through.
“There is a lot of sympathy for the position. I think there’s a lot of support for it,” he said.
But Cappelli also cautioned advocates to be patient. “We are engaged in a process. It will not be done this week,” he said.
The MTA board will meet on Jan. 29. The B37 route extension would have to be written into the MTA’s operating budget.
Malliotakis said that she and other advocates are “making baby steps” toward their ultimate goal. “Little by little, we’re getting there,” she told the Eagle.
“I think what we’re asking for is very reasonable. The MTA keeps building expensive projects like the Second Avenue subway and providing very little in terms of service to the outer boroughs,” Malliotakis said. “This is a bus line that affects so many communities, not just Bay Ridge. We need it back and running on its full route,” she said.
At the meeting, the MTA committee appeared to be seeking a compromise, according to Malliotakis, who said an agency staff member proposed extending another bus line, the B103, to Court Street so that passengers could transfer from the B37 to that bus to complete their trip.
Malliotakis rejected that idea outright. “It makes no sense. But I think the idea that the MTA was willing to propose it shows that we’re making progress,” she said.
Malliotakis and Golden submitted testimony to the committee. “In the past, the B37 would travel 10 blocks further to Court Street at Livingston Street, connecting riders with destinations like the court system, medical appointments, and Borough Hall and its surrounding neighborhood. As the State legislative representatives of Bay Ridge, we formally request that the B37 be restored in full, running past the Barclays Center and to its former final stop at Court Street. Anything less would be a failure for your customers,” their joint statement reads
Brannan said the Bay Ridge Democrats, the political club he heads, are members of the Restore the B37 Bus Coalition, a group of individuals and organizations working to restore the bus line to full service.
“We've come a long way. But the fight to bring back the B37 bus is not over. We fought hard and we got our beloved B37 bus back. But now we need to convince the MTA to fully restore the B37 from Bay Ridge all the way down to Court Street,” Brannan wrote in an email to club members. Fully restoring the original B37 route to Court Street would give passengers a one-seat ride to downtown Brooklyn and providing 24-hour service would provide safe and reliable transportation for workers, students and seniors who commute early in the morning or very late at night."
John Catsimatidis, the former mayoral candidate, joined the call for the full restoration of the B37. “The restoration of the B37 is great news for residents of Bay Ridge and Brooklyn and I was pleased that the MTA finally listened to the pleas of the local community since this line was cut in 2010. Local residents, especially seniors, needed to once again have this essential transportation option, including to get to Lutheran Hospital. However, this fight must be completed by the MTA Board fully restoring the line into downtown Brooklyn,” he said in a statement.