By Sophie Maerowitz
With the planned implementation of the 14th Street Busway on July 1, residents of the East Village were preparing for a major uptick in our quality of life. However, a frivolous last-minute court order has delayed much-needed bus improvements for tens of thousands of our neighbors yet again.
As a resident of East 14th Street and an advocate of the 14th Street busway since 2015, I was incredibly disheartened to see this snap decision. I have spent years working with my neighbors doing grassroots activism, building widespread community support for a car-free bus corridor on 14th Street, and it is quite frankly perverse to argue that transit improvements are an environmental threat, as the suit alleges.
The truth is, this delay will only serve to keep the M14A and M14D buses moving at an appalling sub-4 mile per hour speed. It’s no surprise that the #BusTurnaround coalition has given these lines an “F” rating.
Whatever else contributed to the decision, I don’t think it helped that the judge in this case, Eileen Rakower, never heard the perspective of those of us in the community that care about quick and reliable bus service on 14th Street, which we know won’t work if buses are caught in car traffic. If only she was there when we raced the M14D on foot; it only beat us by two seconds.
The loudest (and perhaps only) voices she has heard were those of the wealthy homeowners on the West side of the 14th Street corridor that sued the city. This small group of people is so concerned with preserving street parking and preserving “neighborhood character” (a loaded phrase if I ever I saw one) that they are blind to the fact that, like it or not, they live in Manhattan, at the heart of a complex and overcrowded public transit ecosystem. Sometimes small changes that have major benefits for tens of thousands of New Yorkers need to happen, even if they may cause them small inconveniences.
As East Villagers who are coping with the L train slowdown, we see the need for fast street-level transit a bit more clearly. Either way, I’m embarrassed by my West Side neighbors for their selfish NIMBY behavior in filing this frivolous and obstructive lawsuit.
Hopefully this decision is reversed or overruled quickly with the understanding that favoring cars over efficient public transit is a backwards, wasteful and thoughtless move in a city facing an unprecedented confluence of transit and climate-related challenges. A vast majority of my neighbors agree with me on this, even if it’s not what we’re hearing from a few West 12th and 13th Street residents who can afford an army of lawyers and publicists.