May. 5, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed
Councilwoman Sandra Ung introduced legislation in the City Council on April 27 that would establish a task force to identify potential locations for the construction of a new bus depot in Flushing.
Flushing is the busiest bus-to-train transfer hub in the New York City Transit system. Approximately 20 MTA bus routes pass through or begin and end in downtown Flushing, in addition to the NICE buses that service areas of Nassau County. Out-of-service buses park on several different locations in downtown Flushing, either for scheduled layovers for driver breaks and shift changes.
“We are lucky to have a transit-rich area in downtown Flushing, but that also brings with it a number of challenges,” Ung said. “Not only would a bus depot take out-of-service buses off our streets, but it would also provide a comfortable place for drivers to take breaks instead of sitting in a parked bus.”
Idling buses in the downtown area have long clogged streets, snarling traffic and preventing businesses from loading and unloading.
Final proposals would ultimately be determined by the task force, but any future bus depot should be close enough to downtown Flushing so as to eliminate the need for buses to park on public streets. There should also be an area for riders to exit and board the buses, as well as facilities for drivers to take breaks, including bathrooms for them to use.
If Ung’s legislation becomes law, the Flushing Bus Depot Task Force would conduct a study reporting on the anticipated cost of constructing a new bus depot, including purchasing the necessary lots, hiring contractors, workers, inspectors and other staff, and acquiring construction-related materials.
The Department of Transportation commissioner or a designee would chair the task force. Membership would include the commissioner of the Department of City Planning or a designee and five other members appointed by the mayor. The mayor may also invite any relevant stakeholders, such as the MTA or agencies at the city, state or federal level, to take part in the work of the task force.
Appointments must occur within 90 days of the bill becoming law, with the first meeting convened 30 days after that. The task force will have 270 days, or approximately nine months, to produce a report outlining their recommendations.
“Building a new bus depot in Flushing will not be cheap or quick, and it will likely require funding from city, state, and federal government,” Ung said.“But we can’t begin to advocate for or allocate those funds without a pragmatic proposal, which is where the task force comes in.”
Until the mid-1940’s, a bus depot existed at the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, but it was replaced by a large department store. In the 1970’s, then-state Senator Leonard Stavisky proposed building a new bus depot on the former Municipal Lot 1 at Union Street and 39th Avenue, but the proposal never came to fruition. The idea was revived over the years by various elected officials and civic leaders, but the depot never materialized.
“I am not the first person to envision a bus depot in Flushing, but the fact is the need for one still exists,” Ung said. “This task force is the first step to making it a reality.”