Chinatown Bus Permits Aren’t Being Properly Enforced, Town Hall Panel Admits

Posted on: December 2nd, 2015 at 5:18 am by

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GD Tours buses on East Broadway

Quite fitting that on the night of the Chinatown bus town hall, sponsored by Community Board 3, the direct path to the venue was blocked by said intercity buses…

Nevertheless, the show went on. And honestly, it was nothing we hadn’t already heard ad nauseum already. Only this time, it was a dog-and-pony show with some big shots including, among others, Inspector Scott Hanover (NYPD CO of Traffic Operations Division), Charles Oshea (Director of External Relations for NYS DOT), 5th Precinct CO Erik Worobey, Margaret Forgione (DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner), and State Senator Daniel Squadron.

The main takeaway from the discussion was that the intercity bus permitting system elected officials worked for years to pass is pretty much being ignored by the authorities. Police from the affected areas of the 5th and 7th Precincts all but acknowledged that enforcement of the nascent law wasn’t there. Despite all the prior media-friendly assurances to the contrary. That’s really the headline here. This, of course, incensed the legislation’s champion, State Senator Squadron.

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5th Precinct CO Worobey rattled off some impressive stats about summonses issued year-to-date (941 violations within the jurisdiction, a quarter of which were for “no standing”). Only issue was that these numbers predominantly reflected parking tickets that rack up a measly $115 fine; a cost of doing business, really. Squadron questioned why violations weren’t issued for lack of bus permits. Enforcing the letter of the law could eventually result in revocation of the permit ($500 fine, $2,500 fine for second offense, revoked for third offense), thereby deterring the never-ending cat-and-mouse game. Response given from the panel of cops and agency brass was along the lines of improper “training,” lack of understanding of protocol, and not being properly “equipped.”

In the end, few remedies were floated. CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer was able to elicit a hollow promise that the officials do a better job of enforcing post-meeting. City Planning’s potential solution of using battery-powered buses to help solve the problem only stoked residents’ frustration at the clusterfuck; activists from the SPaCe Block Association brought up a bus depot outside the neighborhood, further to the point of customers being from without; DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Forgione hinted at cracking down on bus permit renewals and new applications from bad actors and those with an adverse reputation.

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Other highlights from the town hall:

  • Residents remain disillusioned. A town hall is nice, but at the end of the day, the panel isn’t going home to a curbside bus depot. One local, in particular, called out NYC DOT for double-speak, noting that the stated criteria for installing a stop contradicts what happens on the ground (i.e. Yo Bus near Seward Park). Moreover, that CB3 mentions time and again that DOT usually rubber stamps new bus permit applications regardless of the advisement at community level.
  • 311 is notorious for its limited capability to handle complaints/reports regarding Chinatown buses. So, while the authorities stress the importance of logging via 311, the system could rarely absorb the scope of the issue. We learned last night that the service can now accept more granular feedback such as lack of permits and pickup/dropoff infractions.
  • An excuse for the over-saturation was uttered several times last night; that the buses go where the customers are. This was refuted heavily by the public in attendance. How most of the bus passengers are outsiders, hailing from all corners of the Five Boroughs to Chinatown specifically to capitalize on baby fares.
  • The Chinatown Parntership under Wellington Chan will work to advertise the good carriers and to avoid the bad players. Those rogue companies are spoiling it for the rest.

What do you think would be a good starting point for a solution?

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