Quietly, the Queens Bus Redesign project moved forward as the pandemic eased and left Roosevelt Island underserved and virtually forgotten in the process. The community’s lack of Queens political representation left it without a strong voice. Sadly, not one of the elected officials, based in Manhattan or The Bronx, stepped in with some help.
by David Stone
As things stand today, when the Queens Redesign goes into effect, probably by the end of this year, the familiar Q102 route will go away, replaced by the Q104 on Roosevelt Island. While there are only minor changes along the Main Street route, what happens outside this Borough of Manhattan island is dramatic. And unsettling for many who rely on it and will find themselves stranded.
Entering Roosevelt Island Bridge via the Helix, Q104 buses will turn right, going north as they do now, but will bypass 40 River Road on the way to Coler Hospital. And the full route will no longer extend south of the Tram Plaza, a wise move where duplicate service has been wasteful. After a last stop at the Tram, the new route returns north with the subway as its first stop.
But Here’s the Problem with the Queens Bus Redesign
Outside Roosevelt Island, the Q104 abandons the route many count on. Today, a quick jog along Vernon Boulevard connects bus riders with multiple subway lines and other buses in Queens Plaza. It’s a godsend for people who distrust the subways and/or can’t use them because of accessibility issues.
Hardly a day passes at the F Train station without at least one escalator down without any warning. Imagine finding yourself stuck on the middle platform between escalators because one isn’t working and nothing in the station above or platform below warned you.
The Q104 instead goes in the opposite direction along Vernon until turning into Broadway at the intersection across from Costco.
This may work for some, but local resident, especially those who are physically challenged or afraid of the subway, will feel abandoned and isolated.
The Q102 is, also, a crucial resource when F Trains are down, especially as they were recently and accompanied by a Tram shutdown.
“More than a few of our neighbors who are wheelchair-users, who are elderly, and have other challenges need & appreciate their Q102,” she added.
The proposed changes bring even greater isolation for Roosevelt Islanders.
Why Public Buses Matter
Public buses are not just for getting to work. They provide an essential social function, bringing people together and fostering a sense of community.
On Roosevelt Island, that’s been evident since the first Red Buses started running. Over time, as the population has grown and changed, the Q102 has become a lifeline for many residents.
Isolation is a serious problem, especially for elderly residents. It’s one of the reasons why Roosevelt Island has its own Senior Center. And it’s why the Q102 matters so much to those who depend on it.
The Queens Bus Redesign project was undertaken with the best of intentions, to update an aging system and make it more efficient. But in Queens, as in much of New York City, the process has been flawed.
A Public Process That Ignored the Public
The MTA) held a series of public meetings to gather input on the redesign. But they were poorly publicized and poorly attended.
When the modernization of routes was first proposed in 2019, Roosevelt Island’s elected officials did nothing to help the community. But thanks to a community-oriented chief executive, RIOC stepped in.
Susan Rosenthal arranged for Roosevelt Islanders to attend a public session in Queens by giving them a ride on a Red Bus. The current, generally listless and disconnected administration has not shown any awareness of the troubling changes let alone helped needy residents with meeting notices or transportation.
Fortunately, All Is Not Lost…
But it’s in serious peril.
After releasing their revised and possible final route maps, the MTA said, “We are restarting our public outreach process from the beginning, with the goal of giving every Community District in Queens an opportunity to see the plan and provide feedback.”
Roosevelt Island was never included, and the workshops ended in June.
But in a final attempt at outreach, the MTA is hosting pop-up sites throughout the summer.
“Customers will be able to give their feedback on the New Draft Plan directly to the team for consideration in the next phase of the Redesign process, the publication and outreach on the Proposed Final Plan (publication date TBA),” they say.
Unfortunately, without any of that information reaching Roosevelt Island, about half of the pop-ups are now over, including those nearest the community. Here’s what’s left:
- Friday, July 29, 2022 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Allen Community Center at 166-01 Linden Blvd
- Friday, August 5, 2022 1 p.m.–3 p.m. Rego Park at Queens Blvd & 63 Road (at the mall near Marshalls)
- Monday, August 8, 2022 1 p.m.–2:30 p.m. Fresh Meadows Shopping Center at Horace Harding Expressway & 188 Street
- Monday, August 29, 2022 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Jackson Heights at 41-40 Junction Blvd
- Tuesday, August 30, 2022 10 a.m.–noon College Point at Angelo Petromelis Senior Center at 13-28 123 Street
- Wednesday, August 31, 2022 10 a.m.–2 p.m. JASA Brookdale at 131 Beach 19th Street
And Some Last Chances
“All customers are invited to comment on the New Draft Plan by visiting the Queens Bus Network Redesign microsite at https://new.mta.info/project/queens-bus-network-redesign and accessing our comment portal,” the MTA says.
By far, the best way to capitalize on what threads of hope are left for better changes resides in contacting our elected officials. Each has far more clout with the MTA than any resident does. Those officials are City Council Member Julie Menin, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and State Senator José Serrano.
In better times, we’d suggest calling on RIOC to stand tall on our behalf. That, of course, now would be a waste of everyone’s time.