Neighbors still fuming 1 year after MTA bus crashed into Brooklyn apartment building

·4 min read

The MTA bus that crashed into a Brooklyn apartment building with so much force that it was stuck for several days left a mess that has neighbors still seething one year later.

Tuesday marks the anniversary of the wild crash, which captivated locals and concerned city officials who feared the three-story limestone building would collapse if the bus were removed before the structure could be stabilized.

Much of the wreckage — at the corner of Bedford Ave. and Lincoln Road — is yet to be fixed. The same sidewalk shed, tarps and scaffolding have remained in front of the building since last June. Neighbors are upset by the eyesore, which one described as a “dead job site.”

“It’s been a nightmare, and nothing has been done to the construction site since last year,” said Carl Belfatti, who owns the building next to where the bus crashed. “I’ve heard nothing from the city, the MTA or the owner. The construction shed and scaffolding extend 6 feet onto my property and block a third of my facade.”

The fiasco began the morning of June 7, 2021, when the B49 bus driver lost control of his rig, sideswiped a row of cars and slammed into the front of the building. Nobody died, but at least 16 people were injured in the crash.

The bus driver, who had 13 years of experience at the time of the crash, is set to return to the streets. MTA officials said the 56-year-old is being retrained and will start working again after a suspension.

“We’re happy he’s back at work,” JP Patafio, head of buses at Transport Workers Union Local 100, said of the driver. “We were out there defending him from the beginning. He’s a well-liked, well-regarded bus operator by the public, management and his peers.”

The incident might have been forgotten had the bus been towed away the day of the crash. Instead, city Buildings Department officials said the building was at risk of collapse if the bus were removed before the structure was reinforced. It sat on the busy corner for four days before it was safe to remove, drawing onlookers from across the city.

“We had just come out of the worst parts of COVID, and it did feel like one of those New York things,” said Alexandra Anormaliza, 50, who said her nearby building shook when the bus crashed. “It was beautiful in some warped kind of way. Now it enrages me every time I pass the building.”

A leaked video from inside the bus suggests the driver was at fault. He placed several bags near the pedals before releasing the emergency brake. The bus then rapidly accelerated as the driver settled in his seat. He crashed into multiple vehicles before slamming into the Prospect Lefferts Gardens building.

The bus itself remains out of action. It’s being held in storage and won’t be repaired until legal proceedings surrounding the crash are finished, transit officials said.

But there’s no end in sight for residents of the block — a regular Brooklyn Botanic Garden honoree as one of the borough’s “greenest blocks” — who want the building to be fixed.

At least one notice of claim has been filed. MTA officials would not comment on the pending litigation. The building’s owner, Roger Boyce, also declined to comment on his plans for repairs when reached by phone.

Boyce still runs a medical practice on the first floor, according to his neighbors. But his tenants were forced to move after the crash because the top two floors were deemed uninhabitable. Boyce has already been ticketed $29,280 in fines and civil penalties by the city for building violations caused by the crash, and has an additional $1,250 in fines that are pending, records show.

Belfatti said he’s trying to sell the building next door, but the sidewalk shed and scaffolding block sunlight from his first two floors, which he fears has damaged his property’s value.

“I’m screwed if I stay and screwed if I sell,” said Belfatti. “I hope when they finally fix the facade they put in some protection like bollards on the corner so that this doesn’t happen again.”