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14th Street busway will ‘threaten the wellbeing’ of residents: lawsuit

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The suit ironically uses environmental law to argue against the busway

A group of landlords file a lawsuit Thursday against the city’s plan to roll out a busway on 14th Street.
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A group of Manhattan residents are suing the city in an attempt to block a crosstown busway on 14th Street and bike lanes on 12th and 13th streets.

The lawsuit, which was filed by a coalition of neighbors in the West Village, Chelsea, and the Flatiron District, argues that the Department of Transportation’s planned busway between Third and Ninth avenues violates state environmental law because city officials did not conduct a thorough review of how blocking cars from 14th Street will impact the surrounding area.

“The Plans being addressed here are the government thumbing its nose at the views of residents and the character of three neighborhoods in order to speed up busses by one or two miles per hour and promote use of bicycles,” states the supreme court suit, which was filed by attorney Arthur Schwartz who also sued city and state agencies over initial plans for the L train shutdown.

The suit argues that blocking private through traffic from 14th Street will cause “horrific traffic jams” and that such traffic “will bring with it air pollution and noise pollution.”

Originally, transit officials planned to launch a busway on 14th Street to speed up traffic during a complete shutdown of L service between Manhattan and Brooklyn. But the plan was scrapped after Gov. Andrew Cuomo swooped in with a panel of academics and reconfigured shutdown plans into a slowdown, with L service instead running at 20-minute intervals during nights and weekends to accommodate tunnel repair work.

DOT dragged its feet initially, but announced that it still plans to introduce a busway during the L train project. The pilot is set to kick off July 1 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Cars will still be able to make pick-ups, drop-offs, and access area garages, but through traffic is strictly limited to buses and trucks.

City officials have long said they believe the change will make for a substantially smoother ride for bus riders. Transportation advocates who’ve also called for the busway say the new suit is “ridiculous” and point out the irony of using environmental law to argue that the eco-friendly change is bad for New Yorkers.

“I think it’s pretty clear that this is bluster,” said Ben Fried with TransitCenter. “It’s absurd to file a lawsuit on environmental grounds for a project that’s going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make transit more efficient.”

The city touted the busway’s expected 30 percent boost to bus speeds for some 27,000 daily riders, and stressed that it “stands by this pilot project.”

“The claims have no merit,” said Law Department spokesperson Nick Paolucci. “DOT followed all applicable procedures and should be allowed to complete this initiative.”