Police crackdown near Dakota has yielded little improvement
By Reid Spagna
Tour buses that idle in front of the historic Dakota and Majestic buildings on West 72nd Street and Central Park West have long frustrated residents. Despite police trying to crack down on double-decker buses that sit in front of these famous New York City landmarks, residents have yet to see an improvement.
“It’s no good; there are too many buses,” said Roberto Fuentes, a doorman at the West 72nd Street entrance to the Majestic building. “They shouldn’t be over here, blocking the entrances and double parking.”
Theodorus Nutarnio, who mans the Majestic’s Central Park West entrance, agreed with his fellow doorman, Fuentes.
“It happens every summer. It’s annoying,” Nutarnio said. “Three or four buses will be lined up, and stand idling in front of the building. There is a sign that says ‘$500 For Idling’, but the buses don’t listen to them.”
As the dwelling of many celebrities and the site of John Lennon’s death, the Dakota is an especially strong draw for sightseers visiting the Big Apple. The result is a blockage of tour buses and their passengers along the intersection’s western boarder, where they disrupt public bus services and traffic.
Tenants have become frustrated with the situation. They have frequently called the police after complaining to the doormen, who have little control over the situation. With most tour buses frequenting the intersection on Sundays, it becomes difficult for many tenants to return home at the end of the weekend.
Even pedestrians walking through the neighborhood are angry with the congestion.
Francis Apgar was waiting for the cross-town M72 when a tour bus parked in the MTA bus lane.
“You can’t park in a New York City bus stop,” Apgar shouted. The driver replied in a dismissive manner and walked away with his customers.
“The crowds stop here, and it’s getting so bad,” Apgar said. “Everyone in the neighborhood is getting very upset.”
In May, Council Member Gale Brewer wrote to the mayor’s office about the sightseeing bus congestion. The NYPD announced an increase in officers at the intersection to combat traffic obstructions.
From 8 a.m. until 11 a.m., the buses’ exhaust and engine noise are a daily distraction for residents of the neighborhood, Brewer explained in her letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Brewer cited the lack of coordination between the tour companies as a reason for masses of tourists blocking the streets.
“Residents cannot be expected to endure a significant loss in their quality of life in exchange for tourist dollars,” Brewer wrote in the letter.
In a July 5 response, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly wrote that over 200 tour buses have been forced to move from the intersection through the first two weeks of June. Half of these vehicles have received parking summons.
The Commanding Officer of the 20th Precinct and the Manhattan Traffic Task Force of both divisions have amped up the amount of officers at the site. Captain Michael Merritt of the Traffic Task Force has promised that the early mornings of weekdays will be incorporated into the current shifts.
With tour buses coming and going with the seasons—spring and summer tend to see more tour buses in the area—Jesse Bodine, Brewer’s director of constituent services, expressed that the “ebb and flow” of tour buses needs to be monitored.
“There have been positive signs to show that there needs to be some sort of continuing enforcement,” he said. “We need to think of it on a long-term scale, about how spots like [the Dakota] become de facto or cultural landmarks and how to balance the interests of both residents and tourists.”
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