The Fight for Canal Street: CB3 Mobilizes Against New Bus Applicants

Posted on: May 9th, 2014 at 5:24 am by
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Last night, the transportation subcommittee of Community Board 3 spent three hours discussing the constant issues surrounding the Chinatown bus industry, and ultimately voting on a number of applicant hopefuls. A rep from the Department of Transportation was there and definitely heard a raft of shit…

Yes. In a furor not witnessed since Yo! Bus dipped its collective toe into Seward Park last year, the community once again organized in force to resist the onslaught of additional buses. But it was really two applicants in particular that raised ire from residents in the area, both located catty-corner on Canal Street between Allen and Orchard. (To be fair, however, as with so many of these monthly hopefuls, the operators currently have bus business nearby)

59 Canal Street was the first considered. As we’ve reported in the past, this address already supports three separate Chinatown bus companies. Happy Go Travel (service to Columbus and New Stanton, PA) is vying to be the fourth, and would add one pickup and drop-off to the equation. You might think that an additional operator might not be much of an issue; however, the cumulative effect at 59 Canal is quite worrisome. As one resident in attendance quipped, simply one bus stop sign is an invitation to other operators to piggyback.

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A typical night outside the Chinatown bus stop at 49 Canal St.

Emma Culbert of the SPaCE block association led the charge, armed with a two-day-old petition with more than 300 signatures in opposition. The thrust of her argument pretty much summarized the sentiments in the room – there is an over-saturation of Chinatown bus stops and it’s adversely affecting safety and overall quality of life. 

There was plenty of discussion about how broken the permitting system is right now, despite the legislative changes imposed last year. Many voiced frustrations about how the board is bent over a barrel. You see, the DOT usually approves almost all applications, so an outright denial doesn’t afford the chance to input specific stipulations. Nevertheless, the panel decided it had had enough of the bullying, and sided with the community (as they should). They took a firm stand against the application, with member MyPhuong Chung asserting her frustration of “being blackmailed by the DOT” into approving every new operator. The move is likely futile, but at least it sends a united message that change is needed.

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The follow-up for 50 Canal – Cash World Tours (service to Buffalo, Philly, “Florida”) – was definitely more entertaining, in that the building owner was present to refute the questionably legal documentation. The applicant apparently misrepresented her intentions, having never signed a lease to operate in this store to begin with. Yet somehow the DOT deemed this location as best for the business. This infuriated the building owner, who stood face-to-face with the applicant, yelling (in English and Chinese) that they had no right to claim this location as leased.

In the end, much of the same argument applied to Cash World since it’s located just across the street from #59. The committee ultimately voted to deny them, as well.

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