Many of the nearly 50 residents who took part in the protest Tuesday were members of a newly formed civic group, the Malba Gardens Neighborhood Association. It was born out of concerns over the Transit Authority's plan to redirect the Q14 bus down 150th Street instead of keeping it on its current route that runs down Seventh Avenue and loops around Clintonville Street.
"If they have excess money and can extend the routes, do it where they want it," said Tony Avella, a civic leader, standing among protesters with gas masks fastened to their faces.
The rerouting of the Q14 bus, a contentious issue even before it was introduced, was scheduled for a vote during the last meeting of Community Board 7. Dozens of Whitestone residents spoke at the meeting, expressing concerns that the plan would bring down the property value of their homes, endanger their children, create more congestion and expose them to noxious fumes from idling buses.
Aline Martello, a member of the association formed last month, said at the protest that the group had collected nearly 900 signatures of Whitestone residents who oppose the proposal. Those petitions were sent to the Transit Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Community Board 7 and elected officials, she said.
In a 32-to-4 vote, with one abstention, the board last month decided to put off making a decision on the proposal, at least until its next meeting. The community board has the authority only to recommend that a proposal be approved or disapproved.
The Transit Authority or its parent, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, however, is the ultimate arbiter. If approved, the plan would likely take effect in early March, said Eugene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7.
The proposal is to extend the line north up to 150th Street to Third Avenue, where it would complete a square bounded by 149th Street and Fifth Avenue, eventually making its way back to 150th Street.
Asked why the Transit Authority would want to employ such a plan, Avella said, "they saw a new development and they saw increased ridership," referring to Cresthaven, a condominium near Third Avenue and 150th Street.
The Transit Authority did not return a phone call seeking comment as of Tuesday night.
©2001 Community News Group
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