The Nepotism Continues

A story that has come up a couple of times on this blog was the rerouting of the Q54 to serve the Shops at Atlas Park. Many have felt the reroute was a clear sign of nepotism to benefit MTA Board Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger who happens to be the co-owner & president of ATCO Properties which owns the mall.

However if you thought the initial reroute was a sign of nepotism, wait until you read about how yet another bus is being rerouted to serve the Shops at Atlas Park. Nicholas Hirshon of the New York Daily News has the report:

The MTA will reroute another bus past its chairman’s family-run shopping mall in Queens, defying a community board’s 39-to-1 vote against the switch and marking the second such reroute in just over a year, officials said.

Starting Sept. 1, the Q45 bus – which runs from Jackson Heights to Middle Village – will extend its route about 1.4 miles south to stop at the Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, co-owned by MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger.

In July 2007, the MTA diverted the Q54 a few blocks off its old path so it, too, could stop at Atlas Park.

Critics charge Hemmerdinger orchestrated both reroutes to benefit the mall – run by his son, Damon – despite nearby residents’ concerns about noise, traffic and pollution.

“This is like sticking it to the people of Glendale,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5. “This is a crazy move that is going to hurt [Atlas Park’s] goodwill with the community even further.”

The board, which plays an advisory role in city government, voted overwhelmingly against the Q45 reroute on June 11.

A month later, on July 11, MTA Bus President Joseph Smith sent a letter to Giordano thanking the board for its input – but announcing the reroute would still go forward.

Dorie Figliola, one of 39 board members who voted against the Q45 switch, figured Dale Hemmerdinger guided it through to boost business at Atlas Park.

“If the shoe fits, I guess you could wear it,” she said. “There’s people in other areas that have been asking for buses … and they can’t get them.”

But MTA Bus spokesman Salvatore Arena denied that Dale Hemmerdinger – confirmed as MTA chief on Oct. 22 – pushed for the bus reroutes.

“The chairman played no role whatsoever in this decision, which we began exploring long before his appointment,” Arena said in an e-mail. “We went ahead with it because it makes good sense as transit policy.”

In Smith’s letter, he defended reroutes past malls as a way to let customers “access these malls and patronize their shops.”

Smith also wrote that MTA Bus “would not make this revision if we thought that it did not provide benefits to the public or results in an inconvenience to our customers.”

Damon Hemmerdinger, the mall’s development director, noted that the MTA dropped its original plan to send the bus to Myrtle Ave. in Ridgewood – six blocks further than Atlas Park.

He said locals preferred the MTA’s eventual choice: a shorter route and the Q45 turning around in Atlas Park. “The final route is the route that the community leadership asked for,” Hemmerdinger said.

The continuous display of nepotism is disgusting. There is no way the MTA could legitimately justify the rerouting of this route. The reroute comes on a line that was just fine playing the role it did without being changed to benefit a mall. This route will not see any increase in ridership towards the mall so when they look over the numbers, I hope they realize that catering to leadership instead of your customers was clearly uncalled for.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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