Monday, May 21, 2007

Never mind, says NYCT: B63 reroute, Fifth Avenue closing won't happen as announced

Remember that April 9 letter from New York City Transit (NYCT) to Brooklyn Community Board 6 regarding plans to revise service on the northbound B63 bus route? (Excerpt at right.)

It was supposed to be implemented on May 27, in response to the demapping of Fifth Avenue between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues "in the near future" for the Atlantic Yards project, according to NYCT's Lois Tendler.

Never mind. It's not happening this week. NYCT apparently was taking cues from developer Forest City Ratner more than from fellow involved agencies.

Elusive answers

When the move was announced, the timing seemed off because, as I initially reported, several lawsuits delaying and potentially blocking the project remain in court, and would not be resolved by the end of May.

Last month, I asked NYCT and the Department of Transportation (DOT) why the changes were being made in May rather than later. DOT wouldn't answer, despite multiple queries. NYCT spokesman Charles Seaton told me the agency was simply reacting to information supplied by DOT. (NYCT map at right.)

However, a representative of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) told me the agency did not plan to acquire the street until the litigation had concluded. That put the announced plans in question.

Whoops

Finally, on May 12, I got a partial answer for DOT spokesperson Ted Timbers, who said, essentially, that the previous NYCT announcement was all wrong.

His statement: "DOT has no plans to initiate the permanent closure of 5th Avenue in Brooklyn. Any closure of the street will be initiated by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). However, in anticipation of ESDC's planned acquisition and closure, we have begun work with New York City Transit to accommodate the expected rerouting of the B63 bus line. DOT temporarily closed parts of the street on April 24, 2007 because of maintenance unrelated to the development of Atlantic Yards."

That left several questions open, however, as it seemed to contradict NYCT's letter announcing the May 27 reroute and the impending demapping.

Incomplete answers

On Friday, I finally got an answer from NYCT's Seaton. "We are not changing that bus route," he told me.

The agency, he said, had been told by developer Forest City Ratner that the street was going to be closed on June 1, hence the plan for the May 27 change in the bus route. In other words, NYCT was apparently not responding to information from DOT, as he'd said previously.

So, why was NYCT taking its cues only from the developer? Why had NYCT not checked fully with DOT and ESDC before announcing the reroute? Seaton's updated information didn't cover those issues, so he couldn't say.

It sounds like a case, then and now, for the (pending) Atlantic Yards ombudsperson.