BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Hold your horses! …
An Appellate Division court on Friday afternoon issued a stay that blocks the 14th St. busway plan from going into effect on Monday.
The city had been ready to roll out the never-before-seen scheme bright and early on Aug. 12 at 6 a.m.
Under the plan, between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day, only buses and trucks with three or more axles would have been able to use 14th St. as a through street between Third and Ninth Aves.
Only a few days earlier, on Tues., Aug. 6, State Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower had ruled that the embattled plan could go forward.
A month earlier — again, just days before the busway was set to start — Rakower had slapped a temporary restraining order on the initiative, saying she needed to see more data from the city to support the 18-month “pilot plan.”
Village attorney Arthur Schwartz went into court Friday to seek the stay, and — just as in July — he was successful. He is representing pro bono Village and Chelsea block associations and condo boards who fear that closing 14th St. to cars, vans and small trucks would send them streaming onto small neighboring side streets, plus wreak havoc on 14th St.
“It will be months before we’re back in court,” Schwartz said, speaking to this paper just before 5 p.m. on Friday.
Asked how he felt after the decision, he said, “Elated. … It was just 10 minutes ago.”
The attorney said that, after Tuesday’s deflating State Supreme Court ruling, he had asked members of the 14th St. Coalition — the ad hoc group fighting the city’s plan — if they supported appealing the decision, and the answer was overwhelming.
“I said it might cost $5,000 to $10,000 to print the record,” he said, referring to the paperwork — in multiple copies — required to file the appeal.
“I got a great reaction,” he said. “Everyone was pledging $1,000 here, $1,000 there.
“It’s much easier to stop something, than to stop it once it starts,” Schwartz noted of why he scrambled to pull the last-minute appeal together.
In court, five lawyers from the city’s Corporation Counsel a.k.a. Law Department were on hand, desperately doing their best to argue why the stay should not be granted.
Asked how the city attorneys took the decision, Schwartz said, “Were they upset? Yeah. I think they were flabbergasted. … They made the same arguments: ‘There’s no injury [due to the busway plan], this is made-up stuff… .’”
In a statement, Tim Minton, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said, “We are disappointed the City was enjoined again from proceeding with a commonsense transportation plan on 14th St. The M.T.A. looks forward to the day when thousands of bus riders can get where they’re going faster and more efficiently.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.