O’Connor speaks up against intercity bus law

By Zach Williams  |  One Lower Manhattan congressional candidate is asserting that transportation issues in Chinatown are driving his campaign to unseat a long-time Democratic incumbent.

Democratic challenger Dan O’Connor, who is vying for a Congressional seat representing parts of Chinatown and the Lower East Side, said at a local press conference Monday that the plight of low-cost buses servicing the community and the continued closure of Park Row to vehicular traffic would be central issues in his campaign in the upcoming primaries, which are scheduled for June.

O’Connor is challenging Nydia Velazquez, who has represented her district since 1993.

A “rule of law” must be established over the NYPD, which slams companies and citizens alike with tickets and fines in order to meet “quotas,” said O’Connor at a press conference held at the United Fujianese Association’s offices on East Broadway.

O’Connor also expressed his support for a petition demanding the thoroughfare’s reopening, since Park Row’s closure due to security reasons following the September 11 attacks has unnecessarily caused damage to the local economy, he said.

“I have spoken a lot with the local business people, the local residents and they said that Park Row being blocked off has hurt transportation. Everyone has said this,” said O’Connor.

The local bus operators have drawn criticism in the wake of recent accidents and poor safety and maintenance records that led one carrier, “Double Happyness,” to be ordered to shut down by the federal government last December. Efforts to further regulate curbside bus services gained fresh traction last week upon the announcement by local legislative representatives to establish a permit system for intercity buses operating in New York City.

A 2011 crash of a World Wide Tours bus on I-95 in the Bronx, which caused 15 deaths and 18 injuries, underscores the need to crack down on the curbside bus carriers, supporters of the proposed state law have said.

But according to O’Connor, the law unfairly targets the Chinatown bus companies.

Since about 300,000 people each month utilize such bus services in Chinatown, the proposed legislation could unduly affect the local economy, which is still recovering from the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, according to O’Connor.

“If anything happens to the bus companies, it’s going to have a serious impact on the community,” said O’Connor in an interview with the Downtown Express.

Countering O’Connor’s claims, Velazquez, a supporter of the law, said, “As the lead Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, I’ve worked to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on all small business, but there is an issue of safety — both for bus travelers and the community — that must be addressed. For these reasons, I’ve worked with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer to ensure that discount bus travel remains a safe and affordable alternative.”