On Zerega Avenue, Michael LaVallie is building. Building a sumptuous garage. Building a mini-bus business. Building a sculpture pond. Across Zerega, a city-owned field is rotting. Beer bottles litter the land, and squatters’ shacks. LaVallie wants to lease the field and expand. The MTA has offered GVC II an additional 100-200 Access-a-Ride vehicles, he said.
Trouble is, LaVallie’s neighbors are bus-weary. Zerega Avenue is home to six bus companies, an MTA training facility, a sanitation garage and a FedEx terminal. According to Lydia Bowser, who lives at the corner of Norton and Turneur avenues, bus drivers trash her yard, block her driveway and speed down her residential block.
“These guys are terrible,” Bowser said. “They fight. They scream. You should see how they drive.”
Exhaust fumes drove William Robles from his Norton Avenue home. During the winter, the buses stabled on Zerega rumble to life at 3 a.m., Robles said. At 5 a.m., the bus drivers arrive and park their own cars throughout the neighborhood.
“The fumes are so bad,” he said. “Unbearable. You can’t breath. You can’t sleep. I nailed plywood to my windows.”
Linda Brown, community director for GVC II, LaVallie’s business, understands. Brown lives on Seward Avenue. The buses race past her home, too. But GVC II is different, Brown said. GVC II mini-buses stick to Zerega. They idle behind a metal fence. GVC II drivers park their own cars on Zerega. No homes or apartments face the GVC II lot. An in-house breakfast bar and pool table keep GVC II drivers off the street.
“I’m a Community District 9 resident and an Access-a-Ride user,” Brown said. “If GCV II wasn’t doing this right, I wouldn’t be working here.”
“We understand Zerega is zoned for industrial use,” CB9 district manager Francisco Gonzalez said. “At the same time, people living nearby are inconvenienced.”
If the city allows GVC II to lease the field, the business will generate an additional 300 jobs, LaVallie said. According to Brown, most GVC II employees hail from the community.
“I have the contract; I have the jobs; I need the property,” he said. “People around here have a right to be upset, but not with me.”
According to LaVallie, the property is 2.5 acres between Lacombe and Randall avenues.