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Riders angered by loss of Cypress Ave. bus

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The elimination of city bus service along Cypress Avenue in Ridgewood prompted by the merger of two local routes has sparked protest from riders who have depended on the buses to reach nearby subway stops as well as a cluster of cemeteries.

New York City Transit consolidated the B18 bus route with the neighboring B13 starting Sept. 8, cutting out the leg of the B18 that ran along Cypress Avenue from Linden Street down to Cypress Hills Street.

“We felt that the B13 and the B18 provided redundant service,” said Deirdre Parker, a spokeswoman for New York City Transit. “So we wanted to combine them and provide service in other areas that are growing.”

The new route is known as the B13, while the B18 no longer exists.

The 5.2-mile B18 route had the second-lowest ridership in all of Brooklyn, Parker said, and 90 percent of riders who boarded the B18 on Cypress Avenue were only a half mile from a subway station, NYC Transit President Lawrence Reuter wrote in a letter justifying the service change.

But the removal of Cypress Avenue from the service is forcing many riders of the B18 to walk greater distances to reach the nearest subway stop or pick up the new B13.

“It seems as though the MTA is just trying to consolidate its budget and save money at the expense of the riders,” said Michael Hernandez, an organizer with the New York Public Interest Research Group’s Straphangers Campaign who is fighting the service change. “It’s just not appropriate.”

In August, state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) had called on NYC Transit to postpone the service change and create an alternate means of serving Cypress Avenue, a request Reuter turned down in a letter dated Sept. 4. Meanwhile, Community Board 5 passed a resolution last week calling on the agency to reconsider its decision and reinstate the route.

Although the B18’s end points were in Brooklyn — it started at the L train stop on Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue and ran southeast to Jamaica Avenue and Crescent Street by the J train — the Cypress Avenue segment was entirely in Ridgewood. The new B13 route breaks away from the path of the B18 at Gates Avenue and rejoins it at Cypress Hills Street, following a route that is generally between six and eight blocks from the discontinued segment.

Zulma Rojas, a Ridgewood resident who lives off Cypress Avenue, compiled a petition of 475 signatures protesting the service change which she submitted to NYC Transit officials and community leaders.

“We want them to bring back the route,” said Rojas, who used to ride the B18 and transfer to the L train at Graham Avenue near the northwest end point of the route. Now she is forced to walk to the nearest subway station at Halsey Street, a trip she believes would be dangerous in the winter when darkness sets in earlier.

The change also completely cuts off service to a number of cemeteries that line Cypress Avenue between 80th Avenue and Cypress Hills Street.

William Hernandez, the building clerk at Union Field Cemetery on Cypress Avenue, said the employees and many visitors had relied on the B18 to reach the cemetery but are now forced to walk a considerable distance.

“What makes it very inconvenient is that this area is a cemetery area,” he said. “If you’re walking by yourself, it’s not safe.”

Visitors to the cemeteries concur. Aaron Oberstein, a public school teacher in Brooklyn who has a family plot at the Mt. Judah Cemetery, said the lack of a sidewalk and a long walk from the nearest forms of transportation will render a trip to the cemetery dangerous to many senior citizens.

“There is not even a path. You’re walking on the road itself and it’s an area where you enter and exit the Jackie Robinson Parkway,” Oberstein said. “It’s really not accessible.”

Parker, the spokeswoman for NYC Transit, said the agency would continue to evaluate the route.

“Whenever there’s a change there are some people who are going to be inconvenienced,” she said. “We do monitor these situations and we’ll be taking a look at it and see what develops.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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