MTA calls for shutdown of Barretto shuttle

(Above) According to the Parks Department, 38,000 swimmers enjoyed the pool last summer. Photo by Malcolm Pinckney / NYC Parks and Recreation

The MTA giveth and the MTA taketh away. One year after granting parched Bronxites a shuttle bus to Barretto Point Park’s floating pool, transit bigwigs are threatening to eliminate the route.

When the MTA drafted its “doomsday” budget last year, the agency targeted little used routes for elimination. On paper, the Barretto shuttle is just that. A summer-only route, it runs from the 2 and 5 trains at Prospect Avenue to the 6 train at Hunts Point Avenue and on to Barretto Point Park. On weekdays in 2008, the route averaged 140 riders, on Saturdays 240 and on Sundays 130.

The MTA also targeted routes with viable alternatives. The BX6 bus also runs past Prospect and Hunts Point avenues into Hunts Point, circling on Halleck Street and Food Center Drive. From there, Barretto Point Park is a short ten-minute walk, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

But Hunts Point is a truck corridor. The Barretto shuttle was a success in 2008. So was the floating pool, where 38,000 swimmers splashed. Some Bronxites consider the Barretto shuttle essential, however, the MTA is facing a $1.2 billion deficit.

“We pushed hard for the shuttle,” said Adam Leibowitz of The Point, a non-profit community group. “To have it yanked from us after only one year would be devastating.”

The Point conducted a survey of 500 neighbors last spring. A third didn’t know Barretto Point Park, which opened in 2006; 90 percent said they’d visit the park more if it were accessible via public transit.

“We aren’t car drivers, we’re transit users,” Leibowitz said. “And besides Barretto Point Park, there’s a lack of green space in Hunts Point.”

According to Leibowitz, Hunts Point is a dangerous place for children to walk.

“It’s an industrial neighborhood,” he said. “There aren’t sidewalks on every street. Some sidewalks are in disrepair. Getting off the BX6 bus, you’re isolated out there.”

On February 25, Community Board 2 voted against the MTA’s service cuts. The Barretto shuttle didn’t cost the MTA much last year, CB2 chair Roberto Garcia said, roughly $130,000 for the summer.

According to CB2 district manager John Robert, the board has received a number of phone calls from worried parents.

Adam Green of Rocking the Boat, a volunteer boatbuilding non-profit for teenagers, called the floating pool “an amazing resource.” Green’s teens took swimming lessons there in 2008.

“Last summer, we had the kids get to the park on their own,” Green said. “If the shuttle is eliminated, we’ll need to pick them up from the train.”

The floating pool didn’t charm everyone. Hunts Point parent Regina Hines avoided the floating pool in 2008.

“I heard it was horrible,” Hines said. “Kids fighting, stealing.”

Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Congressman Jose E. Serrano support the Barretto shuttle.

When Hunts Point agreed to host a sewage treatment facility, the city promised green space and recreation, Arroyo said. Serrano called the Barretto shuttle “imperative.”

Echezarria has a cost-effective solution. The MTA could extend the BX6 route west to Barretto Point Park, she said. State legislators are debating a MTA bailout in Albany.

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