Glendale residents say the last thing they need is another bus rumbling down their block and tying up traffic near their homes.
But that’s exactly what they are slated to get this June, under a planned reroute that will bring the Q54 down one of Cooper Avenue’s most congested stretches on its way to The Shops at Atlas Park.
In July, the Middle Village-bound bus will begin straying from its regular westerly route through St. John’s Cemetery by turning onto Cooper from Metropolitan Avenue. After making its new stop at the curb cut outside Atlas Park, the rerouted bus will then turn right onto 80th Street and return to its regular Metropolitan Avenue route.
That change is intended to bring hundreds more customers to the mall daily, according to Development Director Damon Hemmerdinger, who spent the past six years lobbying for the reroute. He has already invested $200,000 into building a new bus shelter and curb cut near the mall.
But this blessing for business is likely to become a curse for the community, residents say. The reroute, they add, will bring more unwelcome noise, pollution and congestion to an area already plagued by horrendous traffic snags that snake their way past homes for upwards of a mile.
On weekday mornings, gridlock at the intersection of Cooper Avenue and 80th Street spills over onto nearby roadways — hemming residents into their driveways and slowing the progress of private motorists and public buses, like the Q29, alike. In the evening, the glut of homeward-bound commuters, coupled with the on-street parking by mall patrons who are unwilling to pay mall lot fees, can cause even worse snarls. That renders Cooper Avenue “impassable,” said John Ciralo, a 23-year Glendale local.
“And to cap it all off, now (New York City Transit) wants to throw the Q54 into the mix,” he wrote in an e-mail. “That’s all we need: a bunch of those lovely new boxcar-sized buses adding to the volume at an already overburdened intersection. … Does anybody … have any clue what kind of traffic catastrophe this would cause?”
To boot, some residents believe the current route already offers easy access to the mall — at least, for anybody willing to walk the equivalent of about three city blocks from the regular Metropolitan Avenue stop. “We already have a perfectly good bus stop there,” said Glendale resident Katherine O’Kane. “It’s a nice, five-minute walk. What do we need a new stop for?”
Last month, several disgruntled residents began circulating a petition urging elected officials to reject the plan — or, at least, consider a modification that would allow the bus to circumvent Cooper Avenue.
But the wheels may already be too far in motion on the plan for community leaders to begin backpedaling. Community Board 5 threw its weight behind the reroute at a sparsely attended spring meeting held by the transportation committee. And New York City Transit spokesman Charles Seaton said the city is still on board.
In addition, Hemmerdinger contended that rerouting the Q54 would reduce Cooper Avenue traffic over the long term, by pushing more commuters to take public transportation. “People have a right to be upset, I understand, but I think more buses will eventually mean less congestion,” he said.
Yet Marcos Pagan, a Cooper Avenue resident, isn’t convinced. “The mall keeps growing and growing, and so does the traffic,” he said. “We already have a lot to deal with. Overburdening us like this is beyond reason.”