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An armada of buses is transforming Bergen Beach from a quiet residential enclave to a noisy blur of school bus yellow — and local residents have had enough.
It’s only been a month since Atlantic Express moved into a lot on East 69th Street between avenues X and Y, but already some critics have the scars to prove their dissatisfaction.
The cast on former Assembly member Frank Seddio’s right arm appears to be a testament to the mental — and now physical —anguish that the bus depot is causing him.
“I was injured the first day the buses were there. In my ‘enthusiasm’ to ‘correct the conditions,’ I took a bad fall,” he explained, coyly.
Seddio, a member of Community Board 18 who lives near the new depot, grew beet red while describing the conditions in the neighborhood since the Staten Island-based company moved in on August 24.
He said the buses overflow into surrounding residential blocks, clogging narrow streets and spilling exhaust fumes into the air.
“Bringing 150 buses into the neighborhood is overwhelming,” he said.
Each morning, Seddio said, he hears the familiar, and grating “beep beep beep” of buses going in reverse.
And it is all legal: The depot sits in a lot zoned for manufacturing use, which allows its presence.
Dorothy Turano, the district manager of Community Board 18, said the board will watch the situation very carefully.
“We can check to monitor and make sure they are doing everything by the book,” she said.
“I think this is deplorable,” she continued. “That is a manufacturing district in a residential area that was never rezoned.”
Atlantic Express is leasing the space from developer Alex Forkosh, who previously built six homes on East 69th Street, opposite the depot.
Seddio said the builder “lacks morality.”
“He told them he was going to build homes, and then sticks a bus depot there,” said Seddio, a former Surrogate Court judge.
Turano added, “To do this is disgusting, and it’s a total disregard for the community.”
At press time, Forkosh did not return a call for comment.
Atlantic Express spokesperson Carolyn Daly said the company has been meeting with Seddio and other civic leaders.
“We are working to beautify the neighborhood and address all of their concerns,” she said.
“We are committed to being a good neighbor,” she continued.
Still, she continued, “I don’t know that we’ve been a bad neighbor, it’s just the nature of our business is the size of the vehicles.”
“There’s only so much they can do. The nature of the business is large buses coming in and out.”
Daly said the company does not permit buses to idle, and it’s a policy that’s “strictly enforced.”
She said the buses are used by the city’s Department of Education.
Seddio said the goal for now is to make sure Atlantic Express “follows the letter of the law.”
That means all regulatory agencies will be keeping a close watch on the company’s operations, Seddio vowed.
“If that becomes too burdensome, they are welcome to leave,” he added.
“We are going to force them to be a good neighbor—and in fairness, they are trying to do so,” he added.
Daly said the company holds a ten year lease for the site, and could potentially expand into an adjacent lot.
Flo Hirsch, the president of the Bergen Beach Civic Association, said that aside from the noise and environmental pollution, the local infrastructure might also be damaged by the large vehicles. “I’m afraid the streets aren’t going to be able to take it,” she said.
Hirsch said the hope is that the company “does the right thing.”
What’s that? “We’d like them to move it,” she said.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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