By Dustin Brown
The depots owned by three of the borough’s private bus lines have been put on the market in anticipation of a proposed takeover by the MTA, a transfer that remains cloaked in mystery as negotiations proceed behind closed doors.
The Long Island-based Lighthouse Retail Partners began advertising the availability of properties owned by Triboro Coach, Jamaica Buses and Green Bus Lines in a press release Friday, which indicated the company is seeking lease and development proposals for the sites.
The move came as the mayor’s office continued negotiations with the Metropolitan Transit Authority to give it control of the city’s private bus lines — negotiations in which the bus companies themselves have played no role.
“We have read in the paper that June 30 is the date. That’s as far as we know, and we’ve been given no details,” said Jamie Van Bramer, a spokesman for the Transit Alliance, which is comprised of the three bus companies. “If that’s the case, we have to be prepared to make use of our assets. Until we’re provided with any information to the contrary, we have to operate under the assumption that that’s the date.” Van Bramer added bus service will not be affected by the companies’ efforts to market the properties. “If the city tells us that that’s not the date, we will continue to provide service,” he said.
MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp cited June 30 in a March 31 letter to Deputy Mayor Marc Shaw that expressed the authority’s commitment to pursuing an agreement that would give it control of the private lines. But it is unclear if she meant the takeover would happen by that date or whether the agreement would simply be reached then.
Some 500 buses are currently housed on the four properties now on the market: the two Green Bus depots in Jamaica and Far Rockaway, the Jamaica Bus depot on Guy Brewer and Linden boulevards in Jamaica, and the Triboro Coach depot across from LaGuardia Airport on 24th Avenue in Jackson Heights.
MTA spokesman Tom Kelly said the authority is “still in discussions with the city,” while Bloomberg’s spokesman Jordan Barowitz said the city “hopes to have an agreement hammered out by July.”
When asked what the city would do with the 500 buses were the companies to sell the depots that house them, Barowitz dismissed the move as an attention-getting device.
“My guess is that they’re just trying to put pressure on us and the MTA by putting them up for sale,” he said.
Although the bus companies own their depots, the buses themselves are city property.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.