By Maria Clark
The shuttle bus to the floating swimming pool at Barretto Point Park will be up and running again this summer thanks to some much needed funding from President Obama’s stimulus package.
The future of the shuttle had remained unclear for months while the MTA proposed drastic transit cuts throughout the city, due to an anticipated $1.2 billion budget shortfall.
Last summer’s ridership on the shuttle was so low, according to the MTA, that they had threatened to eliminate it, but the federal money will allow the bus to continue bringing people to and from the park.
“All of the Bronx bus routes no longer face elimination because of the bailout package announced on May 5,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz in a phone interview.
The shuttle was introduced in the summer of 2008, after demands by local residents that the MTA extend the BX 6 bus route past the Hunts Point Market.
In a March 2008 survey to publicize the need for a shuttle to the park, the Hunts Point youth group A.C.T.I.O.N, found that that a third of 460 respondents had never heard of Barretto Point Park and slightly more than half had never been there. Yet 90% of respondents said they would be more likely to visit if public transportation to Barretto were available.
Some residents say the summer shuttle provides a safer way to get to the park than walking among the trucks.
“That bus was packed all summer long,” said local resident Shante Parrish, 25, while visiting the park with her son. “When I saw the bus driving by the park it was always full. There is no way I’d want my kid walking alone to the park. I’d rather him take the bus.”
Krystale Figueroa, 26, was also at the park that day, with her 6-month-old daughter Sophia.
“The bus wasn’t advertised that much, but there were still a lot of kids that used it last summer,” she said. “I’m glad they’re keeping it.”
The shuttle is important, not only for visits to the park, but also for safety reasons, said Detective Arty Warrick of the 41st Precinct.
“It’s not as bad as it used to be,” Warrick said. “But five years ago it was almost comical. Groups of near-naked girls could be seen all over this area.”
At night, the area, which is mostly comprised of warehouses, empties rapidly. Prostitution and burglaries are ongoing problems, Warrick said.
Because of the shuttle, families will be spared the long walk along streets of empty warehouses during the summer.
“It’s a beautiful park,” said Shante Parrish said. “I almost wish the shuttle wasn’t working, ‘cause it is going to be busy busy here this summer.”
A version of this article appeared in the July edition of the Hunts Point Express.