Local Pols Pledge Support To Bay Area Transit Improvements At Town Hall Meeting

Local elected officials pledged support to bringing back full B4 bus service and other public transportation improvements to the area at last night’s Sheepshead Bay Transit Town Hall, organized by Sheepshead Bites, Transportation Alternatives, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and the Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association.

More than 50 people turned out for the event to share their experiences with mass transportation in the area, emphatically expressing the community’s desire to restore the B4 to a 24/7 bus line after service cuts in 2010 eliminated the line east of Ocean Parkway on weekends and off-peak hours on weekdays. The Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association presented elected officials with a petition signed by more than 1,000 people, and when a representative from Transportation Alternatives asked the crowd how many of them were affected by the B4 cuts, every hand in the room went up.

“Over 90 percent of our residents in this community rely on mass transit regularly,” Cymbrowitz said in his opening statements. “Ideas that appear brilliant on paper often fail to deliver in practice. One example? The decision to provide B4 bus service to Knapp Street and Voorhies Avenue during peak periods Monday to Friday, leaving thousands of potential riders without viable mass transit services.”

In addition to Cymbrowitz, Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, Councilmembers Lew Fidler and Michael Nelson, and a representative for State Senator Marty Golden were in attendance, and promised to take the community’s proposals back to Albany, City Hall and the MTA to press for improvements.

“Obviously it’s an important issue, because you can count, you can actually multiply everyone that’s here by tens and tens, if not hundreds, the amount of people that are concerned about this issue,” Nelson said.

In addition to the B4 being restored, residents also demanded a restoration of the BM3 between Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan. That bus line has had cuts to weekend service along parts of the route.

The cuts, residents say, aren’t just hurting their commutes, but also local businesses.

“The end result has been that I don’t spend as much time as I used to down here. I still have my tax guy down here, my barber,” said a former resident who moved to the Bronx but still visits the area. “But unfortunately I don’t have time to shop or do anything down here anymore because there’s no service.”

Other concerns from residents included more convenient bus options between Sheepshead Bay and other neighborhoods, including the Rockaways, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge, and better communication about bus detours and service cuts.

“Getting to these places and requiring three buses for it is unacceptable, and that’s very much hurting the view of our neighborhood from the outside,” one neighbor pointed out.

In addition to neighbors from around the community, several representatives of community institutions came out to speak on behalf of their constituents. A faculty member from Brooklyn Amity School was on hand, talking about how students at the school are left stranded because of the lack of service on the B4, one of the only routes near their school on Shore Parkway and Knapp Street. An organizer of the Southern Brooklyn Democrats said their group supports reinstatement of B4 service as well, as did reps from area senior centers and facilities like the Sheepshead Bay Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Perhaps most telling were the number of residents who spoke about the effect of the B4 cuts on their property values. A boardmember of a Plumb Beach co-op said many residents sold their units off after the B4 was cut, and that sales in the building have fallen off as prospective tenants say they’re put off by the lack of transit options.

“All of us are dependent on the bus,” said the co-op boardmember, who left her job early to attend the meeting. “I would say a good 15 percent of apartments were put on sale. I would ask ‘Why?’ and they would say because there’s no transportation. And we don’t have anyone to buy. People’s first question is ‘Where’s transportation?’ and there’s no transportation.”

An attendee from a neighboring community added that she looked to purchase a home in Sheepshead Bay, but the absence of convenient transportation convinced her not to.

The local pols soaked in the stories of daily commutes-turned-calamitous-odysseys, and said they would fight to improve service. Already, Cymbrowitz announced at the meeting, the MTA contacted his office on the eve of the meeting to tell him restoration and route tweaks to the B4 would be studied, but they gave no specifics about what changes would be made or when they would be implemented.

Transportation Alternatives will produce a letter outlining the feedback received at the meeting. The letter will be sent to all area officials, who will sign their support to it before sending it to the MTA and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“We look forward to the draft letter that [TA] will put together so that we can send it along to the MTA and make sure that what they are saying are the changes or potential changes, our recommendations will be included,” Cymbrowitz said.

A special thank you the Knights of Columbus – Baron De Kalb (3000 Emmons Avenue) for hosting us, and to Jimmy’s Famous Heroes (1786 Sheepshead Bay Road) for providing refreshments.