By Rich Bockmann
The MTA recently bought up a handful of properties adjacent to the South Jamaica bus depot, which it has been hoping to expand for years, but until the agency can come up with the needed capital funds, construction plans will sit as idle as the buses parked along Merrick Boulevard.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority paid $6.6 million earlier this month to the Hollywood, Fla.-based Rejtx LLC for four properties fronting Merrick Boulevard on the block just south of York College and Tuskegee Airmen Way as well as a fifth property at the block’s northwest corner.
The acquisition of the additional 50,000 square feet brings the MTA’s footprint on the block to about 221,000 square feet and represents a long-awaited milestone in the push to redevelop the aging facility.
“To alleviate a chronic shortage of bus parking and servicing facilities in Jamaica, the [New York City Transit] Department of Buses has long desired to expand the footprint of the Jamaica Bus Depot,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. “Ultimately, we plan to construct a new bus depot on the site of the existing depot expanded to include the purchased properties.”
Built in 1940, the 58,000-square-foot depot is one of the oldest — if not the oldest — in the MTA’s portfolio. It serves as the home to some 200 buses operating on nine lines throughout southeast Queens, but it is too small for the task and many of the vehicles sit idle along Merrick Boulevard, especially at night and on weekends.
City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), who served as head of the Queens bus drivers union before he was elected to office last year, said the MTA has been eyeing the properties for the last three years, but plans to renovate the depot go back much further.
“I went to work in the Queens division in 1989, and they probably had it in the capital plan back then,” he said.
In its most recent version of the capital plan, the agency last year scaled back the renovation to include only pre-construction work, as funding is not available to put shovels in the ground. In the meantime, South Jamaica residents will have to continue to put up with buses parking on the street.
Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick said the vehicles are a nuisance to residents of a nearby senior center and prevent street sweepers from cleaning the street.
“As a matter of fact, just a couple of weeks ago I had to call the MTA about the buses so the mechanical broom could get by and clean,” she said. “I’m happy to hear they purchased property, but I’m disappointed they don’t have money to start construction.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.