The cry could be heard blocks away on Third Ave. in Bay Ridge, as locals celebrated the long-awaited return of the B37 bus, which connects Bay Ridge to downtown Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.
“This was a tremendous, tremendous win,” State Senator Martin Golden said of the four-year-long battle to have the bus service returned. “A tremendous win for the community, a tremendous win for the future of our communities.”
Instrumental to the reinstatement of the bus service was the work of members from the Guild for Exceptional Children (GEC), a non-profit agency in Brooklyn that provides residential services and social opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.
Christopher Greif, vice-chair of the Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Council and who lives with a disability himself, led the press conference announcing the triumphant return of the bus service and thanked all of those who had helped in having the service return.
“The B37 bus is back in action! Who can say that we did not fight? We fought. It didn’t just take one person, it took all of us,” Greif said. “It was four years ago that the 37 was discontinued. This is not the way the 37 should be, and it should stay forever, because the 37 represents communities from Bay Ridge all the way down to downtown Brooklyn.”
Greif’s mother, Debra Greif, is the chairperson of the Brooklyn Family Support Services Advisory Council and explained the difficulties that ensued when the B37 bus service was cancelled.
She said that many of the individuals at GEC are specially trained to travel on the B37 to get from home to wherever they needed to go.
“So when they took this bus away, 1,000 individuals using services from [Bay Ridge] all the way down Third Ave. were all mixed up, they were getting lost,” Debra said.
Elizabeth Sena, a member of GEC, would take the B37 bus every day to go to work and to various volunteer opportunities in the community. When she had to take a different bus for the first time, she had trouble.
“I took the B16 and I got lost,” Sena said.
Helen Reyes, the transit coordinator at GEC, explained that the bus driver would not pull over to let Sena off the bus. Fortunately, another passenger got off with her and waited with her until her mother came to pick her up.
For the members of GEC, then, the return of the B37 is not only a matter of convenience, but of safety.
A number of elected officials, including Borough President Eric Adams, Assembly members Nicole Malliotakis and Felix Ortiz and Councilman Vincent Gentile applauded the efforts of GEC and members of the Bay Ridge community.
“Third Avenue has never been the same without the B37,” Gentile said. “This has been a big victory for the Guild of Exceptional Children. They did a great, great job. Thank you for your advocacy.”
The benefits extend far beyond GEC, as many Bay Ridge businesses struggled getting employees and customers to their shops after the termination of the bus service.
Arlene Rutuelo, who has owned and lived above Nordic Delicacies on Third Ave. for 28 years, said that her elderly customers in particular had trouble getting to her store.
“This was a main thoroughfare, like a thread that connects us to downtown,” Rutuelo said. “You know, business is hard enough right now. The economy is struggling, and to take away a connector to other customers, it’s hard. It was hard on us. So we’re really excited that it’s back.”
Next, the community will turn its focus on extending the service so it ends at Court St., where the final stop used to be when it ran four years ago, instead of at its current terminating stop at the Barclays Center.