QUEENS, N.Y. - Timothy Chuang has owned stores in Flushing Queens for 35 years. Most recently, an herbal store and bubble tea shop. He's seen the neighborhood flourish into a bustling commercial district.
“A lot of of people buy the bubble tea from us - they buy 10 cups. They don’t want to take the bus,” Chuang said.
Chuang is against a sweeping change coming to the heart of Flushing. The city's plan to forbid cars on Main Street from Northern Boulevard to Sanford Avenue so the MTA can provide speedier bus service.
Chuang believes he will lose customers who drive.
“The parking space is very good, very important for us," said Chuang. "People stop, pick up and go. It is very important, traffic is very important for us."
The Main Street busway will test whether the city can scale the no-car corridor on 14th Street in Manhattan - a pilot project that is now permanent.
It's one of five new busways planned, an effort to encourage people to take mass transit instead of their cars as the city gradually reopens from months of coronavirus shutdowns.
But in Flushing, it's a tough sell to some store and restaurant owners, like Chuang, who belong to the local Business Improvement District.
"It’s just not a fair justification, to implement the bus lanes on Main Street, because this is the heart of the downtown Flushing business for just few passengers that they stated, every day, to save two or three minutes," said Dian Yu, director of the Flushing Business Improvement District. "I don’t see it."
The busway has the backing of the local Assemblyman, Ron Kim.
"Obviously some communities will be pitted against each other, but in the long run this is the right move and we have to actually do more to make the streets more pedestrian friendly," Kim said.
There is some support in the business community for a busway on Main Street. The director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, John Choe, tells NY1 faster buses mean more bus riders getting off on Main Street.
That increase in foot traffic is crucial for businesses to stay open through the pandemic.
"We need to bring more people back into Flushing and that means improving public transit and reducing traffic congestion," Choe said.
The city Transportation Department says meetings will community groups will begin next week, and that this busway will open sometime this month.