Nov. 16, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A Queens Supreme Court judge has temporarily halted the installation of a controversial new busway in Main Street Flushing after a coalition of concerned business owners filed a lawsuit.
Judge Kevin Kerrigan issued a temporary injunction against the Department of Transportation and the city Friday, preventing the agency from implementing the 1-year pilot program that would convert a stretch of Main Street into a busway.
The judge postponed implementation of the busway – which was expected to go into effect today – until he hears all arguments from both sides and makes a determination on Dec. 21.
The order comes after the Flushing Chinese Business Association (FCBA) filed an Article 78 proceeding against the DOT over the plan.
The new busway, which the MTA says will speed up service, will run 0.6 miles along Main Street from Northern Boulevard to Sanford Avenue. The agency said the layout will improve slow and unpredictable bus speeds for the 155,000 people who use buses that traverse the route each day.
The FCBA opposes the busway over concerns that it would cut into its members bottom line.
Under the plan, cars would be banned along the route and the FCBA fears that if people have difficulty driving in the area they will shop elsewhere.
The FCBA, which has nearly 1,500 members from the Flushing community, said that many businesses are already struggling due to coronavirus lockdowns and the busway will only make matters worse.
“This is a particularly inopportune time for something like this to be implemented,” said Randall Eng, who is representing the FCBA.
“Businesses are just beginning to recover. All that is at risk if access to the Main Street business district is compromised in some way,” Eng said in a statement to reporters Friday.
However, the city and public transit advocates maintain the busway will bolster the local economy because a greater proportion of shoppers arrive in the area by bus as opposed to car. They maintain that better bus service will increase the number of potential customers traveling to the area and that would therefore bolster local business.
A combination of several transportation advocates released a joint statement Friday blasting the FCBA and said the delays will hurt low-income residents and essential workers who rely on bus routes running through downtown Flushing.
The group, which is made up of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Riders Alliance, StreetsPAC, Transportation Alternatives, TransitCenter, and NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, said that the judge’s order stands in the way of increasing bus speeds by up to 23 percent.
“Once again, the needs of more than a hundred thousand daily bus riders are being held up by spurious legal actions filed by a small group of well-resourced opponents,” the statement reads.
“The Main Street busway will connect riders with six hospitals and over 3,400 essential worksites like pharmacies, grocery stores, and delivery services.”
It is not the first time the plans for the busway have been put on hold.
The busway, which is part of the mayor’s “Better Buses” plan, was originally expected to go down over the summer but was pushed back until Oct. 1 following opposition from business leaders and elected officials.
In late September, The FCBA, New York City Council Member Peter Koo, State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Community Board 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty and Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech, called on the city to delay plans for 30 days until the concerns of business leaders could be heard and adequate outreach was completed by the MTA and DOT.
The DOT then began putting down the busway earlier this month and announced on Twitter that markings and signs were in place to begin implementation from today.
Friday’s ruling put the brakes on the project once again.
Mitch Schwartz, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said the city remains confident that the busway will eventually get the go-ahead.
“Mass transit is the future of this city. It’s the key to fighting climate change and it’ll be the engine of our long-term economic recovery,” he said.
“This busway will serve New Yorkers every day – from college students, to restaurant and retail workers, to local families who deserve a faster way to get home.”
— NYC DOT (@NYC_DOT) November 10, 2020