For several years, a budget-crunched MTA has had its eye on discontinuing the B37 bus route, which runs down Third Avenue from Bay Ridge to Downtown, and vice versa. And the bus was always saved at the last moment. Once again, the MTA is pushing to kill the 37, but this time with an appeasing twist: it would reroute the B70, a peculiar bus that travels from Greenwood Cemetery into Bay Ridge, down Seventh Avenue, where no one but residents has reason to visit. The B70 would instead run down Bay Ridge Avenue to Third Avenue, and from there take over the old 37 route.
From the Verazzano Bridge area to around 65th Street, the B37 runs down Bay Ridge’s main drag. It’s a necessary route for locals, particularly elderly residents who don’t walk so good. (Bay Ridge is what they call a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.) Old people, of course, vote, and local politicians are always willing to raise a stink on their behalves.
For the rest of the bus’ trip through Brooklyn, it wanders down a highway-clouded netherregion; for most of west Brooklyn, from Sunset Park through Park Slope, Fifth Avenue serves as the main commercial drag. Third Avenue is for DVD stores of ill repute and flats fixed fronts.
But that wasn’t always the case.
According to an opinion piece in The Brooklyn Eagle from 2008:
In Sunset Park, from 64th to 18th Streets, Third Avenue was once a commercial hub of the neighborhood, according to Robert Caro’s definitive biography of Robert Moses, New York City’s notorious urban planner. More than half a dozen movie theaters and dozens of restaurants and mom-and-pop stores lined its streets, operating in the slatted light streaming through the elevated tracks above — much like, one imagines, Brighton Beach Avenue today.
But Moses built a light-blocking elevated highway atop the old el tracks in 1941, despite pleas from residents to build it a block away on industrial Second Avenue. Moses refused, calling Sunset Park a “slum.” 100 stores were closed and 1,300 families were evicted from their homes. The avenue was widened to become a ten-lane truck route. “Once the avenue had been a place for people,” Caro wrote. “Robert Moses had made it a place for cars.”
The only thing keeping it on life support is the B37…If local residents no longer have to walk there to catch the bus, it won’t be long before the last bodegas close and the desolate streets are overrun with drug deals and prostitution. Moses did enough damage to the neighborhood when he built the highway; if, decades later, the MTA discontinued the bus route, it would turn the avenue into the “slum” Moses once accused it to be.
The MTA’s new plan appeases the wealthy white people in Bay Ridge, who have long been served above the needs of its Hispanics-heavy neighbor. But the plan still does irreparable damage to Sunset Park.
What else is new?
(Oh, and who wrote that Scathing Editorial? It was me.)