Volume 20 Issue 13 | August 10 - 16, 2007


Before the deluge…prevent it

There was a day two or three years ago when the subway could run rain or shine, but now system-wide disruptions after a heavy rain are becoming more and more frequent as we witnessed Wednesday. In Lower Manhattan many of the streets are named after swamps, waterways and docks (Lispenard, Canal, Peck Slip, etc.) and the problem is much more acute. Once again we saw flooded streets and basements. The city needs to find a way to keep the trains running and a solution to the problem of the storm sewers, which chronically back up after heavy rains.

There is widespread scientific agreement that Downtown -- with its low sea level and landfill neighborhood (Battery Park City) -- will be one of the first parts of the city to experience more floods because of global warming – the only questions are about when it will happen and how bad it will be.

As we first reported last year, the city has come up with a new flood evacuation plan for Downtown after learning lessons from Hurricane Katrina. More planning and protection like that needs to be done now by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Port Authority, the Battery Park City Authority as well as by the city, state and federal government. Solutions to keep our heads and feet above water may not be cheap, but it will be a small price to pay to prevent devastating losses of life and property if we don’t do enough.

Chinatown bus chaos

Chinatown’s private bus business is booming. That this industry has grown to its current level in a little under 10 years is amazing. The rates are cheap and if one is not too fussy these rides are just the ticket.

Yet, while the busy bus business is good news for Chinatown’s economy over all, it also has brought a host of problems that are affecting Chinatown as well as the Lower East Side.

The buses increase traffic, pollution, noise, garbage and even violence, due to the fights that sometimes flare between rival operators in their competition for passengers. Police say it’s hard to oversee these problems because the buses are so spread out. And the buses’ picking up at the curb at scattered locations means traffic is being impacted in a haphazard, irrational way. Residents, in particular, are feeling the bus invasion’s effects.

As we reported last week, the city recently proposed a 30-day pilot program under which all the Chinatown interstate buses would be shunted toward the end of Pike St., with no more than seven dropping off or picking up at any one time. However, neighbors at Knickerbocker Village and the Rutgers Houses opposed the idea and so did Community Board 3.

Plopping a “mini bus depot” in a residential area obviously isn’t a good idea. But the status quo cannot continue.

The Chinatown bus industry needs oversight and regulation. While the bus traffic has not reached Port Authority numbers, it is significant and has outgrown random curbside pickups. Perhaps a more appropriate centralized location can be found — possibly on city-owned property, away from residential areas. But, clearly, something must be done.

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