Ridgewood organization launches DOT lawsuit over Fresh Pond Road bus lane

A lawsuit aims to stop the addition of express bus lanes on Fresh Pond Road, a busy commercial thoroughfare in the heart of Middle Village.  Eagle  photo by Luca Powell

A lawsuit aims to stop the addition of express bus lanes on Fresh Pond Road, a busy commercial thoroughfare in the heart of Middle Village. Eagle photo by Luca Powell

By Luca Powell

The Fresh Pond Road Coalition launched a lawsuit Wednesday against the city’s Department of Transportation, in the wake of the agency’s push to build a bus lane through the neighborhood.

Their lawsuit aims to stop the addition of express bus lanes on Fresh Pond Road, a busy commercial thoroughfare in the heart of Ridgewood and Maspeth. The new bus lanes remove vital parking from the area, the Coalition says, which would hurt the community.

“We’ve submitted a laundry list of alternatives,” said Geoffrey Elkind, the group’s president. “The [DOT] haven’t listened. Now we have the lawsuit.”

The bus lanes were proposed back in April, as part of Mayor De Blasio’s Better Buses Action Plan. Its goal — a 25 percent increase in bus speeds by 2020 — has brought a hands-on DOT into Middle Village. 

Rather than remake Fresh Pond Road, Community Board 5 has argued for what they call “common-sense measures. “

Adriana Rodriguez outside her restaurant. Rodriguez says she’s worried about the parking on Fresh Pond Road already.

Adriana Rodriguez outside her restaurant. Rodriguez says she’s worried about the parking on Fresh Pond Road already.

“Consolidating buses, synchronizing street lights, that should have been steps one and two,” Elkind said. “The bus lanes were step six.”

“The DOT is arrogant,” said Paul Kerzner, the Coalition’s general counsel. “What [De Blasio] has suggested, it hasn’t worked out. He didn’t think it through.”

Lawsuits against the DOT aren’t unheard of. In June, a Manhattan judge granted an injunction to stop a similar bus lane in the West Village, which local civic societies had called an “arbitrary and capricious action by the department.”

For their part, the DOT says the current plan does implement the community’s suggestions. Still, “a la carte treatments” wouldn’t solve the problems, a spokesperson told the Ridgewood Post in June. In other words, the original proposal still has a green light.

The DOT also claims to have done outreach to local business owners regarding the new bus lane. One of them, Adriana Rodriguez, told the Eagle she was concerned for any plan that removed more parking.

“It’s crazy,” said Rodriguez, who runs Taqueria Kermes at 66-36 Fresh Pond Rd.. “We are already losing customers because there is no parking.” 

Rodriguez also suggested alternatives, like re-routing the Q58 to a different avenue. The bus line is one of the most used in the borough.

Kerzner said the plan will hurt more than help.

“What happens to this guy?” said Kerzner, pointing to Checo’s Market at 66-80 Fresh Pond Rd., just over his shoulder. 

“What happens to his employees? Their really not interested in solving our problems. They’re just doing the Mayor’s wishes.”