Volume 20 Issue 7 | June 29 - July 5, 2007

Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel

Senior citizens on North End Ave. are hoping to get a bench at this bus shelter and name it after Pearl Scher, who led the fight to get the shelter installed.

B.P.C. seniors ready to sit in to sit down

By Jennifer Milne

Senior citizens living at The Hallmark just want a place to sit down while waiting for the bus. The bus shelter they’ve got now is a simple metal-and-glass construction, but it doesn’t have what the residents want most — a bench.

“I usually use the number 20 bus,” said Ken Simon, 83, a resident of the Hallmark on North End Ave. “The bus stops there but the shelter doesn’t have any place to sit down. When I was riding the bus, I started to look out the window, and I found that between 23rd St. and here [The Hallmark], there were three places where the bus stopped and they had shelters and had people sitting in them.”

Hallmark residents’ frustration with the lack of the bus bench dates back to late 2002, when fellow Hallmark resident Pearl Scher, who passed away in October, lobbied to get the bus routes changed to accommodate those living in the northern portion of Battery Park City, where The Hallmark is located. In addition to a place to sit while waiting for the bus, residents also want to put a plaque on the shelter commemorating Pearl Scher’s efforts to get them their bus stop in 2002.

“Pearl got us a bus shelter, but unfortunately she passed away before the work was finished,” said Priscilla Brandt, a Hallmark resident. “If we have our way, a plaque on the bench will honor Pearl and everything she did for the residents here.”

Brandt asked those at the Community Board 1 full board meeting on June 19 to raise their hands and show the need for a bus bench, and dozens of hands shot up.

Scher’s efforts also got Hallmark residents a bus shelter in 2004 — but no bench.

“We are not inventing the wheel here,” Simon said. “At least three benches exist already.”

Chris Gilbride, of the City Department of Transportation, said the city is in the process of replacing its 3,300 bus shelters with new structures, which will all include benches, although he did not know when the city would get to the one near The Hallmark.

“We have heard requests from the community, we are aware they want a bench at this location,” Gilbride said. “This whole area is going to be dug up and rebuilt when we put in these new shelters.”

And as for the plaque commemorating Scher’s efforts, Gilbride said getting an addition to the shelter is out of the D.O.T.’s hands.

“It’s an interesting idea,” he said, “but any changes to the external appearance of the shelter would require the city get Art Commission approval.” For a plaque near, but not attached to, the shelter, residents would need to go to the Parks Department, Gilbride said.

The city has been asked to make the bus shelter at North End Avenue one of the first to be replaced with the new shelters, Gilbride said. D.O.T. is in the process of replacing 650 shelters in the first building year, which began Sept. 23, 2006, and 700 shelters will be done the second year, with 650 each year after.

Because of this B.P.C. bus shelter’s proximity to the street, it will have to be replaced with the new narrow design. The narrow designs won’t be implemented until after the summer at the earliest. They are part of the second year of the city’s shelter replacement plan, which begins Sept. 24.

Even with all the efforts to get seating, though, some B.P.C. residents and workers don’t seem to mind the lack of a bench.

“I don’t mind waiting for the bus and standing,” said Susan Kalish, a librarian at nearby Stuyvesant High School. “The buses take so long to come, I usually start walking to the next bus stop. Walking is faster on Chambers St. than taking the bus.”

Simon, upon hearing the news that residents would get a brand new bus shelter with a bench, was happy, but skeptical about things getting done.

“I’m delighted with the news but I can’t figure out why the hell it takes them so long,” Simon said. “It does seem extraordinary that it would take them over a year to do a job that isn’t that big to do. Also, the average age here is well over 80, and an 80-year-old person should not have to wait for another year. To go for that length of time seems wrong.”

With reporting by Skye H. McFarlane

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