By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
An idea that U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Brooklyn-Staten Island) is driving to extend bus service to the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Bay Ridge has earned a salute from a local veteran, who said it will be a tremendous help.
“I think it’s a great idea. Anything they can do to make things a little easier for our veterans would be appreciated,” Howard Dunn, a World War II veteran from Bay Ridge, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Dunn was reacting to a proposal from Grimm to extend the S53 bus, which currently terminates at Fourth Avenue and 86th Street, to the Brooklyn VA Medical Center at 800 Poly Place, about a half a mile away. The bus starts its route on Staten Island and travels on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Brooklyn.
Grimm, who has written to officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to request that they look into the possibility of extending the route, said the S53’s current route forces disabled and ill veterans to make a transfer to the B70 in Bay Ridge in order to go just an extra half mile to reach the Brooklyn VA.
“With the Manhattan VA closed due to damage from Super-storm Sandy, local veterans have no choice but to go to Brooklyn for their healthcare needs, and for some, the bus is the only option,” said Grimm, who is a veteran himself, having served as a marine in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
“Transferring buses just a half a mile from the hospital simply doesn’t make sense – especially for our elderly and disabled veterans who could greatly benefit from a more direct route that keeps them from waiting outside in the cold. As a Marine combat veteran, I always try to help those who have served our great nation, which is why, on behalf of our local veterans, I urge the MTA to extend the S53 route to the Brooklyn VA,” Grimm said.
The idea to extend the bus route is aimed primarily at helping Staten Island veterans, but Dunn said Brooklyn veterans can benefit, too.
The problem faced by veterans seeking to travel to the VA was made far worse when Super-storm Sandy caused extensive flood damage to the Manhattan VA, Grimm said. The hospital remains closed for outpatient services until March and will be closed indefinitely for inpatient services. Staten Island veterans now have no choice but to make the trip to Brooklyn, Grimm.
Dunn said extending the route makes perfect sense. “Why should people take two buses when one can get you there?” asked Dunn, who is active in the American Legion and said he thinks members will like the idea.
Grimm called his idea a “common sense” solution to a transportation problem veterans are facing.
“In government, we are often faced with complex problems that require creative answers. This is not the case with this issue. Extending the S53 bus route to the Brooklyn VA is common sense solution that will make healthcare far more accessible to our veterans. Many of them paid a hefty price to give us the freedom we currently enjoy, and this is an opportunity to give a little back in return,” Grimm said.