Pedestrian plan to fix 32nd Street near Penn Station backed by elected officials

A group of elected officials are pleading with the MTA to support a plan to expand the sidewalks of 32nd Street between Penn Station and Greeley Square.

The plan aims to revive a summer 2015 pilot that expanded the northern sidewalk of 32nd Street with painted street markings, according to a letter the group of seven politicians penned to the MTA on Monday. The transit authority would be required to move its bus layover on the block.

“We urge you to swiftly approve the proposal in order to fix the dangerous situation that unfolds daily on 32nd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, where more than 6,000 people per hour enter and exit Penn Station, flooding the sidewalk and pouring onto the street,” reads the letter, signed by Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler; State Sens. Marisol Alcantara Brad Hoylman; Assemblyman Richard Gottfried; City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Borough President Gale Brewer.

The 2015 pilot was a joint venture between the city’s Department of Transportation and the large real estate company Vornado, which owns property in the area.

The pilot was spiked that year because of commercial loading problems that arose — problems the electeds, planning experts and the city believe could be solved if the MTA removes its M4 and Q32 layover that require space for eight buses on the southern side of the street.

The MTA has pushed back against the idea and it doesn’t appear willing to budge.

Shams Tarek, an MTA spokesman, referred to a comment the authority made back in March on the proposal, where it argued that bus routing on 32nd Street provided an important connection for riders looking to get to Penn.

“While NYC Transit fully appreciates the need to improve the safety and viability of pedestrian spaces, it is also important to maintain a multi-modal connection between fully accessible bus routes and Penn Station, a significant regional transportation hub which is served by the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit,” the authority said in that statement. “We are continuing to work with NYC DOT on this issue.”

Nick Sifuentes, the executive director at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which has advocated for expanding 32nd Street’s pedestrian space for more than a decade, said he empathized with bus riders. But ultimately, he said, removing the crosstown trip that M4 and Q32 buses have to make to reach Penn could actually speed up service.

“The Q32 and M4 are some of the slowest buses in the area because these buses are making two unnecessary left turns right in the heart of midtown. The routing is not great,” Sifuentes said. “This is an idea that just makes sense to many thousands of people who are outside of Penn every day. The sidewalks are so crowded that you have to walk carefully in the street. It’s not safe but there isn’t another option.”

The city’s Department of Transportation issued a statement Monday night, saying “We are closely coordinating with the MTA about any potential bus reroutes or changes to layover space.”