By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bus riders from Bay Ridge to downtown Brooklyn and everywhere in between were jumping for joy on Tuesday after it was learned that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board of directors was poised to vote to restore the B37 bus.
The MTA will vote on the restoration of the B37 and other transit lines at its next meeting on July 24.
Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) broke the news about the return of the B37 Monday night by issuing a statement to the media. "Tonight I am proud to say the B37 is back!” Gentile stated. “This is a major win for Brooklyn - for seniors, students, the disabled and businesses along the corridor - from Bay Ridge to Prospect Heights - for people who need to get to work, doctor's appointments, schools and houses of worship - this route is essential. I can't wait to take my first ride on the beloved B37!" he said.
The MTA eliminated the B37 bus line three years ago during a budget crisis. The bus line, which ran from Bay Ridge to downtown Brooklyn along Third Avenue, was one of several bus lines the MTA dumped to save money. Transit advocates have been pushing ever since for the bus to be put back into service. There were protest rallies, petition drives, and other forms of public pressure put on the MTA. Two grassroots organizations, the Restore the B37 Coalition and the Riders Alliance, both formed to press the MTA to bring back the bus. The bus elimination was even the subject of a lawsuit against the MTA.
On Tuesday, the MTA refused to confirm that the B37 is making a comeback. “What changes that may occur will be presented at next week’s MTA Board meeting,” MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in an email.
But that isn’t stopping B37 bus supporters from celebrating. “It’s on the MTA’s agenda for that meeting. It wouldn’t be on the agenda if the MTA wasn’t going to vote for it,” one advocate told the Eagle.
"This is great news for the community,” said Patty Hutton, a Bay Ridge resident and a member of the Riders Alliance. “The B37 will reunite Bay Ridge with downtown Brooklyn and will give those who need an alternate travel route easier access to Lutheran Medical Center, Barclays and all things in between,” she said.
Another alliance member, Maria Demopolous, said she is happy the MTA listened to riders. “I used to take the bus to Costco and downtown to shop. But more importantly, I know that the restoration will have a big impact on our senior citizens who rely on this bus but can't take the train or walk to Fifth Avenue,” she said.
John Quaglione, who lives in Bay Ridge, said the bus should never have been taken away. “I remember right before this bus route was terminated, I utilized it to get to jury duty. Words cannot describe how busy that bus was, with people getting on and off at almost every stop. I was, and still am, shocked that they ever cut this bus route in the first place,” he said.
The B37 used to stop outside the Adams Street entrance to Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Leaders of the Restore the B37 Bus Coalition said they were ecstatic over the prospect of the bus’s return.
The victory represented the culmination of a three-year effort to organize the communities of Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Gowanus, Red Hook, Sunset Park, and Bay Ridge in support of restoring the bus line, according to coalition leaders.
"We applaud the leadership of our community and thank the MTA for making a wise and just decision on behalf of some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said coalition member Elizabeth Yeampierre, who is also executive director of United Puerto Rican Organizations of Sunset Park, an environmental group.
"I cheer this victory on behalf of transit riders in underserved communities, particularly Sunset Park, which strongly felt the impact of this ill-planned cut,” said Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez said. Gonzalez (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook) said the lack of a Third Avenue bus line was a major inconvenience for residents seeking to travel to and from Lutheran Medical Center, located at 150 55th Street. Up until three years ago, riders used to be able to take the B37, get off on Third Avenue and 55th Street, and walk two blocks to the hospital.
“Now our seniors, people with disabilities and those seeking health care at Lutheran can access that facility with far less inconvenience. Now everyone can get to the Barclays Center. Now Brooklynites from Bay Ridge to downtown Brooklyn who have transportation needs can access this vital artery," Gonzalez said.
State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Red Hook-Gowanus-Sunset Park) said the B37 is needed because it serves communities in Brooklyn that are rapidly growing in population. “I am very happy that all the work the Restore the B37 Bus Coalition put in has been appreciated by the MTA, and I am very grateful to the MTA for their restoring this vital bus line to a rapidly growing service corridor,” she said.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) said that since the B37 was taken out of service in June of 2010, “I have never given up the fight, and the hope, that we will again see buses rolling along Third Avenue.”
Golden filed a lawsuit against the MTA in the wake of the termination of the B37 bus route. The lawsuit cited the community needs for such a service due to the lack of subway stations with elevators for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island), who made the B37 a focus of her campaign when she first ran for office in 2010, said the long nightmare for riders may be over.
“For three years, families, seniors and businesses have suffered without the crucial bus service they need and deserve. Transit riders, community leaders and elected officials have fought tooth and nail to restore the B37 through rallies, petitions, correspondence and public pressure on the MTA. The restoration of this bus would be a tremendous victory for the people of Bay Ridge and all of Brooklyn. Over the next week, we will continue to make our voices heard and effect positive change in our community,” she said.