Flushing commuters have already waited five months for the Main Street busway, and a judge ruled Nov. 13 that the wait will continue for at least one more.
State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Kerrigan ordered the city to postpone the 0.3-mile stretch of designated bus lanes after Flushing businesses filed a lawsuit. The Department of Transportation had planned to launch the busway Nov. 16, and had already gone as far as painting new “Bus, Truck Only” markings and installing new signage. New bike lanes have also been installed on Sanford Avenue between Kissena Boulevard and Main Street, right off the proposed busway route.
Kerrigan set a court date for Dec. 21 to hear arguments and issue a final decision on whether the project can proceed, the New York Post reported.
The Flushing Chinese Business Association, attorney Randall Eng and several area businesses filed an Article 78 proceeding against the DOT over the plan. The FCBA had sought legal representation to push against the MTA and DOT shortly after the project was announced in June. The group and city agencies had met on several occasions to discuss the busway, which the FCBA fears would be detrimental to area businesses, but the fight didn’t escalate to court until Friday.
“DOT insisted on Bus line in Flushing despite the explanations of the merchants, which caused public outrage in the community to protest,” said FCBA Executive Director Peter Tu in a Nov. 3 tweet.
There have been several community-led protests against the busway, most recently on Nov. 1 when dozens of concerned business owners and residents marched along the proposed route in the rain. City Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), both longtime busway opponents, joined the march.
The Flushing BID found that nearly 98 percent of Downtown Flushing businesses opposed the project for fear that lack of street travel and parking will deter shoppers who come to the neighborhood by car. A 2015 MTA Main Street Shopper Study, however, found that under 20 percent of people arrive to the neighborhood by car compared to 27 percent who come by bus. Only 4 percent of those who do drive park their car on Main Street, the study said, while most drivers opt for garages or lots.
While businesses and politicians oppose the proposed busway, commuters and bicyclists have been looking forward to the installation.
“It can take 15 minutes just to go three blocks on Main Street, which is one of the largest transportation hubs out there,” John Choe, exeutive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, told the Chronicle in early November. “It’s not just people who live and work in Flushing — the entire region is impacted.”
In spite of the delay, the DOT is confident the judge will rule in the city’s favor and the project will begin in late December.
“With the majority of the work complete, the City stands ready to hit the ground running and deliver faster and more reliable bus service to Downtown Flushing,” a spokesperson said in an email.