Red Hook historian blasts MTA

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A longtime Red Hook resident and historian slammed the MTA last week, alleging the agency caters to the whims of Ikea shoppers while forgetting residents of southwest Red Hook.

“The B61 [bus] route, which always terminated at Beard Street in southwest Red Hook, does not adversely affect residents from the area. The B77, however, is an entirely different matter,” wrote resident John Burkard to this paper.

Burkard, who has lived in Red Hook for over 70 years, stated that since the late 1930s the B77 was the only form of public transportation between Park Slope and Red Hook.

In the outskirts of southwest Red Hook, the B77 used to terminate at the corner of Conover and Coffey streets. Then two years ago, this terminal was relocated one block further east to Van Brunt and Coffey Streets, wrote Burkard.

Burkard stated now that Ikea is in the area, the MTA abolished the terminus stop, and tore down the bus shelter at that stop. Now the B77 drives past the former stop, turning south on Beard Street where it stops in front of the Ikea for shoppers.

The MTA never made arrangements for those people from southwest Red Hook, who were now without a bus stop to board the B77 toward Park Slope where it ends on 5th Avenue and 10th Street, said Burkard.

Burkard maintains that B61 bus drivers understand the dilemma and often pick up B77 riders at their old terminus stop to bring them to the new stop.

There have been no additional signs posted to notify riders that they could board their new bus now at Van Brunt and Coffey streets, leaving these riders confused and only finding out about the change via word of mouth, he said.

Burkard said the change leaves the already transit-challenged residents of southwest Red Hook sometimes walking anywhere from 15 blocks away to catch public transportation.

Transit Authority spokesperson Deirdre K. Parker responded that the changes to the B61 and B77 routes have improved service to the Red Hook community.

“Representa­tives from our Operations Planning and Government and Community Relations units met with Community Board 6 members today [last week] and no complaints were raised,” said Parker.

Parker said by moving the B77 route south from Coffey Street to Van Dyke Street and Beard Street, it now serves Ikea in both directions. Otherwise the bus route would operate two or three blocks away from the store, she said.

“With this extension, shoppers as well as local residents who work at Ikea can take either bus route directly to the store,” she said.

Parker said although official ridership figures will not be available for a few weeks, the MTA has observed that ridership is up on these routes.

Burkard has a better idea to resolve the situation.

“The simplest solution to this massive error on the part of the MTA is to make those who call the shots leave their office and ride the lines in question before making decisions which affect the daily lives of the abused and sorely neglected residents of southwest Red Hook,” wrote Burkard.

“It would seem the MTA has done a remarkable job to see that Ikea customers suffer no inconvenience to shop at this new store. Now all we need is for the MTA to do likewise for service to a forgotten part of Red Hook, which has been neglected by nearly every New York City agency since time began.”

Updated 3:44 pm, October 19, 2011
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