Updated Wednesday Aug. 5
A proposal to close off street traffic for a pedestrian plaza off Flushing‘s Northern Boulevard was met with opposition from neighborhood groups concerned that the change will worsen existing congestion and traffic problems.
The Korean American Association in Queens (KAAQ) is working to place a pedestrian plaza adjacent to a small park known as Leonard Square. The proposal will close off traffic at all times on Roosevelt Avenue between 155th Street and Northern Boulevard.
The plan was submitted to the DOT in the winter of 2014, and a public workshop was held on April 16 to solicit public feedback. A trial street closure on April 18 was deemed a success by the KAAQ after they received no resident complaints.
The overall contention against the project, however, comes from members of the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association, which charged that it would worsen traffic congestion and cause safety concerns.
“We already have enough traffic and problems with too much congestion. [Closing] another street is only going to add to that and we need every artery,” said Janet McCreesh, a former president of the homeowners group.
McCreesh also asserted that there were more appropriate sites for community gathering spots nearby, such as Bowne Park, which is 0.4 mile away.
“How safe and clean will it be to encourage people to sit in between Northern Boulevard and one of the biggest and busiest parking lots in the neighborhood?” McCreesh asked.
Members of the association have voted to send another letter to Community Board 7, which may publicly discuss the issue as soon as Sept. 21.
Councilman Paul Vallone, a supporter who is working with the KAAQ on the project, recalled a similar plaza successfully established in Douglaston, and said that he expects the same benefits for the community around Leonard Square.
“Any group, such as the Korean-American Association of Queens, is able to apply to the city to maintain a pedestrian plaza with the goal of creating an open area for everyone to sit, rest, socialize and enjoy public space,” Vallone said. “I also believe this plaza will have a positive effect on safety and combat the clear history of traffic incidents at this very congested site.”
Paul Yoo, president of the KAAQ, believes the homeowners association objected to the proposal because they are misinformed on its potential effect on neighborhood parking and traffic. While around 8 to 10 spots of street parking would be lost if the street were blocked off, the KAAQ is working with the DOT to come up with alternative solutions to retain parking in the neighborhood.
Yoo said that if the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association had made an effort to reach out to the KAAQ, they could have collaborated to make compromises.
“They didn’t come to the workshop. They haven’t seen the work we’re doing,” said Yoo. “They didn’t contact us. They should come and talk to us.”
The next trial street closing of Roosevelt Avenue between 155th and Northern Boulevard is planned for Friday, Aug. 7, and will have festivities such as clowns, a bouncy castle, face-painting, balloons and stilt walkers to call attention to the initiative.
Editors note: An earlier version misidentified Janet McCreesh as the president of the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association, and incorrectly listed the date of the Community Board 7 meeting in which this issue will be discussed. We apologize for any confusion.