Tag Archives: DOT

More traffic agents, safety devices near Flushing Commons site


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of TDC Development International

Hoping to ease the pain for drivers and pedestrians, the city is bringing more traffic agents and safety devices to downtown Flushing.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced the measures during Wednesday’s meeting of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s Flushing Commons Task Force. The advisory body was formed last year to focus on congestion issues related to the billion-dollar Flushing Commons project, a complex of housing, shops and businesses rising on a former municipal parking lot.

As of Wednesday, teams of two NYPD traffic enforcement agents were assigned to the intersections of 37th Avenue and Main Street as well as Roosevelt Avenue and Union Street. A single traffic agent was stationed at the corner of 37th Avenue and 138th Street.

Trottenberg said the DOT will also create a left-turn-only lane from 37th Avenue onto Main Street and install a temporary all-way stop sign at the corner of 37th Avenue and 138th Street.

Each of the measures, she noted, aim to improve traffic flow and increase safety for both drivers and pedestrians traveling through downtown Flushing near the Commons site.

“The task force appreciates the commitment by the DOT, the NYPD and the developers to consider all possible measures to enhance traffic flow and pedestrian safety in Flushing’s downtown core,” Katz said. “These actions are sound steps that demonstrate the DOT’s commitment, and continual engagement by all stakeholders is necessary to keep the economic engine of downtown Flushing running amidst the building pains of development.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Ron Kim, City Councilman Peter Koo and Community Board 7 Chairperson Chuck Apelian all expressed support for the new safety measures.

Congestion in Flushing has been problematic for years; the downtown area has the highest per capita number in Queens of vehicular accidents resulting in pedestrian injury or death.

Flushing’s traffic woes increased in the area around the Commons site after work started last year. Several entrances and exits on Union Street were shut down, and a bus terminus was relocated onto 128th Street between 37th and 39th avenues, shifting many buses through the neighborhood.

Katz formed the task force last year to engage city agencies and F&T Group, Flushing Commons’ developer, with local business groups and civic leaders and find ways to alleviate Flushing’s traffic problems. Since December, the DOT — at the task force’s urging — amended a pedestrian walkway permit at the Commons site, shifting it into a parking lane. This, the Borough President’s office noted, helped improve traffic flow through the neighborhood.

Along with the measures announced Wednesday, Trottenberg said the DOT is mulling the following additional measures to further improve traffic conditions in Flushing:

  • Reversing the direction of traffic on one-way 38th Avenue;
  • Creating a right-turn lane from 37th Avenue onto Main Street;
  • Temporarily removing parking spaces on 37th Avenue and 138th Street immediately adjacent to the Flushing Commons construction site; and
  • Installing new stop signs, traffic signals and/or enhanced street markings at several other intersections, including 37th Avenue and 138th Street, Union Street and 38th Avenue, Main Street and 37th Avenue, 39th Avenue and Union Street, and Roosevelt Avenue and Union Street.

 

DOT proposes expanding bike network in CB 5 area


| a.giudice@timesnewsweekly.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

Gear up for round two of bike lane construction in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village.

Aaron Fraint, project manager with NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) bicycle program, presented three options for a second phase of bike lane creation to the Community Board 5 Transportation Committee members on March 24.

All three options focused on creating a network of lanes.

“We would like to do a set of streets that all connect to each other because we see the bike network as just that, a network, rather than sets of routes that aren’t connected to anything,” Fraint said.

The first option would connect Ridgewood to Rego Park through Middle Village via Metropolitan Avenue, 69th Street and Eliot Avenue ending on Woodhaven Boulevard.

“Metropolitan Avenue is very busy corridor…with a lot of commercial and industrial activity,” Fraint said, which is why creating safe bike lanes is so important.

The avenue is also 41 feet wide, which allows just enough room for a shared bike lane in both directions.

The DOT proposed using “sharrows,” symbols with a green background that notify motorists that bicyclists may be present.

Option two connects Glendale to Rego Park through Middle Village by using Central Avenue connecting to Cooper Avenue to Woodhaven Boulevard, with a north/south route on 80th Street turning into Dry Harbor Road and 63rd Avenue, ending on Woodhaven Boulevard.

Fraint said that both Central and Cooper avenues — which are 40 feet wide — have enough space for 12-foot-wide shared lanes in both directions with 8-foot parking lanes.

Cooper Avenue already has a shared bike lane on the extra-wide sidewalks that were installed on the underpass after its reconstruction. These connect to a shared bike lane on 80th Street, so “we would pick up where shared lanes left off on 80th Street and bring it over to Woodhaven Boulevard,” Fraint said.

The final option seeks to connect Ridgewood to Long Island City through Maspeth along Fresh Pond Road, 59th Drive to Rust Street. In the opposite direction, the route would take Rust Street to 60th Street then to 60th Avenue and back down Fresh Pond Road.

A segment of Fresh Pond Road, which is 44 feet wide, can accommodate 14-foot shared lanes in both directions, keeping the configuration of one travel lane in each direction and parking on both sides.

59th Drive is one-way westbound from the turn off Fresh Pond Road up until 60th Street, and at 26 feet wide, “we will be able to keep the condition as is, but add a shared lane for cyclists,” Fraint said.

As 59th Drive continues past 60th Street, it becomes a 30-foot-wide two-way street, and the DOT is looking to put in a center line and shared lane symbols.

The DOT is still working out what type of bicycle facilities would be the best fit on Rust Street.
Fraint added that a lot of cyclists are using that route and it is a logical connector between Ridgewood and Long Island City.

After the board heard all three options, they discussed which ones they would like to see implemented in the community.

“I do like the Metropolitan, 69th and Eliot [route],” said John Maier, co-chair of the committee. “I think Eliot makes a lot of sense.”

For option two, Maier said that Fresh Pond Road is “already a traffic nightmare,” but that cyclists do use the route and it is worth taking a look at.

Panel members agreed that the first option would be the best fit for the communities. They liked option two, with some modifications to the 80th Street section. The DOT needs to further study the third option before the board accepts it. The DOT hopes to begin installing the accepted routes during 2015.

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Design chosen for Woodhaven/Cross Bay Select Bus Service


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by  Salvatore Licata

Updated Tuesday, March 24, 6 p.m.

Things are about to get more rapid for commuters on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled Tuesday afternoon its Select Bus Service (SBS) bus rapid transit (BRT) system along the congested corridor between Elmhurst and the Rockaways. The proposal would transform the roadway into a “transit-oriented boulevard,” with designated bus lanes in the main roadway and special bus stops featuring shelters, seating and real-time bus information constructed at major intersections.

According to the DOT, the concept is based on the limited Q52 and Q53 bus lines that currently operate on the boulevard and shuttle 30,000 daily passengers between the Rockaway Peninsula and Elmhurst (where the Q52 terminates) or Woodside (where the Q53 ends). Studies found that 43 percent of residents in central Queens and the Rockaways do not own a car, and 60 percent of all residents rely on public transportation.

A rendering of a Select Bus Service station on Woodhaven Boulevard at Metropolitan Avenue on the Glendale/Rego Park border. (photo courtesy NYC DOT)

A rendering of a Select Bus Service station on Woodhaven Boulevard at Metropolitan Avenue on the Glendale/Rego Park border. (photo courtesy NYC DOT)

“This is the kind of ambitious overhaul new York City’s bus riders deserve,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “It means safer streets that save lives. And it means that communities from the Rockaways to Elmhurst that have long been underserved by public transit will see real improvements in their daily commute.”

“Queens deserves better public transit and we’re excited to bring this innovative design for Bus Rapid Transit to move New Yorkers efficiently while at the same time making the streets safer for all,” added DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

The plans were unveiled days after Sen. Charles Schumer requested up to $100 million in federal funding to get the job done. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Schumer requested the funds through the Federal New Starts Program, claiming that the streamlined limited stop service on the corridor between Elmhurst and Ozone Park is critical toward improving both traffic flow and public safety. If approved, the request would cover half of the BRT project’s projected $200 million cost.

“The Woodhaven Boulevard corridor has long suffered from a lack of adequate transit options and the city’s innovative and exciting Woodhaven Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit plan can be just what the doctor ordered for long-suffering transit riders from the Rockaways to Howard Beach, [from] Woodhaven to Woodside,” Schumer said. “This Bus Rapid Transit plan can turn this corridor from a transportation desert to a transportation oasis for tens of thousands of Queens residents, and also be a boon for local property value and area businesses.”

Presently, more than 31,000 people each day travel on various local, express and limited-stop bus lines along the boulevards, which the DOT previously identified among the most dangerous roads in the city. Seventeen people were killed and more than 3,000 people were injured in accidents along Woodhaven Boulevard alone between 2008 and 2012, according to the DOT.

In recent years, the DOT created Select Bus Service (SBS) BRT lines in other parts of the city, such as Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. The seven SBS routes, Schumer stated, contributed to travel time reductions of between 15 and 23 percent and also sparked “significant ridership growth, customer satisfaction of over 95 percent and a 20 percent reduction in crashes.”

“The Woodhaven Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit plan has the potential to turn an arduous transit slog into a seamless, predictable and speedy ride that will get Queens transit riders from these neighborhoods to and from work, family and fun in a much more efficient way,” Schumer said.

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Repainting of bridges on Jackie Robinson Parkway will cause one-lane closures


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons / Jim.henderson

And then there was one.

The Department of Transportation has started work on the Jackie Robinson Parkway that will lead to one-lane closures over the next six weeks.

On March 19, the DOT began a weeklong project of daytime closures of one lane of the parkway underneath the Myrtle Avenue Bridge to prep for their work. They are repainting and adding new protective coatings to the bridge, which currently may contain lead in some of its paint.

Once the prep work is over on March 25, there will be a six-week nighttime project on the parkway, where the actual repainting will take place. This means that one lane will be closed at a time, at night on Sundays through Thursdays from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Fridays from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m.

This is part of a bigger project where the DOT Division of Bridges is cleaning and reapplying protective coatings to various bridges in multiple locations within the western Queens area. There are a mixture of commercial and residential neighborhoods in the eight locations where the work will be done. This will require careful monitoring and environmental oversight because the paint they are removing may contain lead, according to the DOT.

The main portion of the project will be the removal of coatings, cleaning and repainting the full bridge in different stages. The DOT will have workers in HEPA suits removing paint that may have lead in it with abrasive blasting. This method uses compressed air to blast off paint from the structure, according to the city agency.

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Public transit advocates expand coalition for express bus service in Queens


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated March 3, 1 p.m. 

With express bus service set to be created on routes between Flushing and Jamaica and along Woodhaven Boulevard this year, a coalition of public transit advocates backing the plan is expanding its efforts to win the hearts and minds of Queens community members.

As the city moves ahead with plans to create what’s known as Select Bus Service, the Department of Transportation is holding workshops to gather input from community members living in areas that would be affected by the new bus service. Often these meetings are attended by an overwhelming majority of people who are opposed to Select Bus Service.

But a coalition of transit advocates – BRT  for NYC — recently enlisted interest groups like New York Immigration Coalition to help raise awareness in communities that would benefit from faster bus travel times. They ultimately want to influence the city’s plans to speed up travel time for commuters who depend on buses.

“People who are afraid of this are going to fight harder than people who will benefit from it,” said Joan Byron, a member of the Pratt Center, which is part of the growing coalition.

During a meeting at Kew Gardens Hills last year, city officials were barraged by people opposed to any express bus service plans that would have taken away a lane of traffic from motorists and restricted it to buses only.

“You are wrecking our neighborhoods,” one woman said to a city official during the 2014 meeting. “You’re all morons. We do not want this.”

The community members worried that the city would remove a traffic lane on Main Street to allow express buses to whiz past rush hour traffic. But for Kew Gardens Hills residents, traffic lanes were more important than fast buses.

During a City Council hearing in February, transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced that the Q44 would be transformed into a Select Bus Service that will cut travel time, much like those that have already been created in Manhattan and Staten Island.

Plans for the Q44, which runs mostly along Main Street, include off-board fare collection, traffic lights that will stay green for buses and general infrastructure upgrades. The city also plans to create an express bus service called Bus Rapid Transit along Woodhaven Boulevard.

The coalition has enlisted 10 new groups to help what they, according to Byron, see as underprivileged communities living in areas that don’t have train access and have very limited bus access.

But with some of these new enlisted groups, like the Alliance for a Greater New York, Jess Nizar from Riders Alliance and others hope the pro-Select Bus Service side will get a boost with political influence.

“Without having a coalition these plans won’t reflect the needs of the people that need this the most,” Nizar said. “Sure, the city said they’re going to create SBS, but we don’t know what it will look like yet and we want people who benefit from this to give the city their input.”

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City plans to launch express bus service between Flushing and Jamaica this year


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A planned express bus service that will run between Flushing and Jamaica is set to launch this year, according to city officials, who have included some measures to appease several communities that resisted the idea of designating lanes for buses only.

“Flushing and Jamaica are two of our key commercial centers, but traveling between them by subway means going in towards Manhattan and doubling back – and forget making the trip from the Bronx on the subway,” said Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the Department of Transportation (DOT). “There are many destinations along this route not served by the subway system, such as Queens College and other key locations in the Bronx.”

During a City Council hearing on the citywide expansion of express buses, also called Select Bus Service, Trottenberg laid out a timeline to create a bus line that would connect the downtown areas of Flushing and Jamaica. She also said that in areas between the two destinations, bus-only lanes wouldn’t be created, respecting the wishes of many community members in areas like Kew Gardens Hills.

But Mike Sidell, a Kew Gardens Hills resident and community activist, remains skeptical because Trottenberg did not specify which communities would be spared the bus lane.

“We should hold them to the fire and get them to name all of the communities that won’t have the bus-only lanes,” Sidell said. “It looks like they’re giving us lip service, but it worries me that [Trottenberg] didn’t specifically name Kew Gardens Hills.”

Exclusive bus lanes are a common element of express bus lines, but residents in communities that live between Flushing and Jamaica resisted this idea because they feared it would create traffic back-ups by squeezing all the other traffic into only one lane.

The city appears to have responded to these residents by suggesting that bus-only lanes will be limited to areas where they are most needed, like the congested downtown Flushing area.

“Downtown Flushing and Jamaica are very different than places in between those neighborhoods,” Trottenberg said. “We’re going to have a long period of community engagement.”

The city plans to transform the Q44 into a Select Bus Service that will cut travel time, much like those that have already been created in Manhattan and Staten Island. Plans for the Q44, which runs mainly along Main Street, include off-board fare collection, traffic lights that will stay green for buses and general infrastructure upgrades.

The City Council hearing was held for testimony over a proposed bill that would require the DOT to develop a network of express buses that would stretch across the city and connect neighborhoods that have limited or no access to subways. The DOT already initiated express bus service plans on several routes, including Woodhaven Boulevard. And the hearing came soon after Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed for the expansion of express buses in his State of the City address.

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City installing new traffic lights along Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Motorists driving along Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards will be seeing more red, yellow and green.

As part of Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” traffic safety initiative, the city is in the process of installing new and larger traffic lights along the busy thoroughfares in hopes of giving motorists a better view of the of the red, yellow and green lights.

Currently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is replacing the 8-inch circular signals with 12-inch circular signals going northbound and southbound on the two boulevards in Queens. These are the first to be installed in the borough.

Work will be done for the entire length of the corridor and is expected to be completed within four to six weeks, weather permitting, according to a DOT spokeswomen.

On many of the new lights being installed, there is a bit of a gap between the red top light and bottom yellow and green lights. Due to the new size of the lights, in select locations the signal must be raised to ensure that it is the correct height above the roadway. About two of the new 12-inch lights equal the length of the full three light piece that holds the old 8-inch ones.

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In the last couple of months, the city has initiated a number of safety improvements on Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards. In December, the DOT installed temporary pedestrian safety areas, set off by yellow cones, in order to widen the mediums on which people crossing the street could stand to create a bigger barrier between pedestrians and traffic.

The city is also in the process of creating permanent safety areas, where they will actually build out the sidewalk, in more traveled intersections such as where Queens Boulevard meets Woodhaven Boulevard.

There is also a proposal for Select Bus and Bus Rapid Transit to come to both of these corridors in the future.

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Kew Gardens Hills residents enraged over city proposal to create new express bus service


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Addressing a crowd of angry Kew Gardens Hills residents, Councilman Rory Lancman urged the group to “express yourselves in a respectful manner” on Wednesday night as MTA and city officials met with residents who would be affected by a proposed express bus service line.

The new express line, known as Select Bus Service, would run between Flushing and Jamaica.

But residents had their own ideas on how to express themselves during the city workshop that was held at Townsend Harris High School.

“You are wrecking our neighborhoods,” one woman said as a gaggle of scowling women surrounded a city official. “You’re all morons. We do not want this.”

City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg also attended the meeting.

The city is considering two routes between the neighborhoods for SBS. The first would travel along Main Street where the Q44 and Q20A/B run. This route was the source of contention for residents. City officials and representatives from the MTA held the meeting to collect feedback from people who would be directly affected by any changes to create a new express bus.

The second route under consideration is along Parsons and Kissena boulevards, currently serviced by the Q25 and Q34.

Members of the community were worried that the city would sacrifice a traffic lane on Main Street to create a dedicated bus lane for a Select Bus Service line. Many saw the city trampling over the needs of the residential neighborhood of Kew Gardens Hills to solve traffic problems in Jamaica and Flushing.

“There [are] no traffic problems in this neighborhood,” said David Deutsch, who lives and works in the area. “There may be a problem in Flushing and Jamaica, but that has nothing to do with here.”

But Sheldon Goodridge disagreed. Standing apart from the angry crowds, he said that most people, like Deutsch, are criticizing the plan even though they don’t use buses to commute.

“Sometimes I wait so long that I have to take a risk and use the dollar vans, and that’s a very harrowing ride,” Goodridge said. But when the buses actually come he takes the Q44 on Main Street and 58th Avenue to the No. 7 train in Flushing for his morning commute to work.

“Having a bus lane would cut down on my commute,” Goodridge said. “We should emulate what Manhattan has.”

Mark Henry, the president of a transit union representing bus workers in the areas between, and including, Flushing and Jamaica, attended the workshop and was unimpressed by the city’s proposal.

“They make it very attractive. Give it a world view. And talk about how other transit agencies across the world do similar things,” Henry said and then pointed out that adding another bus to a street that already has a bus wouldn’t help. “But we see it as a duplication of the service that’s already there. This SBS line will be redundant. It already exists.”

With over 25 years of experience as a bus driver in the city, Henry said that the city should create new bus lines in areas that don’t have buses. And that many of these new lines should run in areas where there are no trains, like routes between Bayside and Rockaway or from Rosedale to Queens College.

“As bus drivers we feel that we are part of the community and we want to help people,” said Henry. “And the SBS is going to bypass the community.”

In Queens, the city has been slowly moving toward creating SBS along Woodhaven Boulevard, and routes between Jamaica and Flushing are in the early stages of planning.

The city hasn’t released any official plans on what will ultimately be done, so residents and elected officials like Lancman are hoping to dissuade the city from implementing dedicated bus lanes in Kew Gardens Hills and other neighborhoods that are sandwiched between the busy downtown areas of Flushing and Jamaica. Lancman also sent a letter to the Department of Transportation opposing any proposals that would include a bus lane.

During the workshop at Townsend High School, Lancman and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz suggested that many of the elements of Select Bus Service are useful. They approved of time-saving ideas like coordinated traffic lights and installing kiosks at bus stops so that people could buy MetroCards instead of fumbling with money as they step onto the bus.

But, Lancman added, “We do not want to see this happen if they’re going to insist on a bus lane.”

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First safety workshop held for Queens Boulevard


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Community officials, residents, family members of traffic accident victims and survivors got the chance Wednesday night to give their input on putting an end to fatal crashes on the “Boulevard of Death.”

The Department of Transportation held the first Queens Boulevard Safety Workshop at P.S. 11 in Woodside to discuss the future of a stretch of the busy thoroughfare between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street.

The agency said it decided to focus on this section first because statistics show there have been six fatalities since 2009 in that particular area. Last year, the speed limit on Queens Boulevard was lowered to 25 mph as part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative.

“The Mayor made it clear that improving Queens Boulevard is a priority and so Wednesday night NYCDOT will host a safety workshop to hear the community’s concerns and ideas,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “That workshop is only the first step in a more comprehensive process to reimagine and redesign the boulevard as a safer, greener, more attractive corridor for residents and businesses.”

During the workshop, over 100 members of the public were able to sit down with DOT facilitators in groups at several tables in the school’s cafeteria. The agency’s representatives then went over the options for improvements that can be done on the thoroughfare and asked that each person draw on a map of Queens Boulevard, provided at each table, any suggestions they have.

Among those present were members of Families for Safe Streets, made up of a group of family members of victims of traffic accidents and survivors.

“We’re really asking for them to take a really bold stand and do a complete redesign of Queens Boulevard,” said Ellen Foote, a member of Families for Safe Streets whose 27-year-old son was killed while riding his bicycle home. “We want to turn the ‘Boulevard of Death’ to the ‘Boulevard of Life.’”

Foote added that with the popularity of Queens increasing, she sees Queens Boulevard as the place to start making changes. She urged the DOT to take the community’s input and statistics and come up with a plan.

“We should make it a model not just for New York City, but the world,” Foote said.

Among the suggestions voiced by the public were creating protected bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes, making street medians longer and wider, adding street regulations to reduce speeding, and increasing the amount of time to cross Queens Boulevard.

Ralph Munoz, a Kew Gardens resident who lost both his mother and brother to traffic accidents, in separate incidents, sees the workshops as positive moves to making the streets safer. He added that he sees many cars speeding near where he lives.

“The [speed limit] law is new. People need to learn. It takes time. But if people want to do it, they can be a very responsible driver. People just need to be more responsible with their car,” Munoz said. “It’s a discipline and it’s a change to keep people safe.”

Munoz is a new member of Families for Safe Streets and says he plans to attend future workshops for Queens Boulevard, especially for the stretch of the strip near where he lives.

“It’s good to be involved and helping with this type of thing because you don’t want other families to go through this,” Munoz said.

The DOT will now take the input from the workshop and use it to come up with recommendations for Queens Boulevard. There are also plans for future workshops for the road.

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Parking in Ozone Park pedestrian plaza still not reinstated


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Though a part of a controversial Ozone Park pedestrian plaza has been removed and is ready for parking, customers at local businesses still cannot use the area for parking because issues over signage have to be addressed.

In the beginning of November, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that they will be pulling back a section of the pedestrian plaza, located on Drew Street and 101st Avenue, to reinstall parking. This announcement came after business owners complained that the lack of parking, among other issues, has caused their sales to drop drastically.

But even though the DOT has removed the portion of the plaza already, signs have been put up reading “No Standing Anytime,” stopping people from parking there.

According to a DOT spokeswoman, interim parking signage is expected to be installed in the coming weeks. She also said the DOT is in the process of planning a more permanent parking measure in the area and that they continue to work with the community on the issues with the plaza.

Business owners in the area complained that the lack of parking and the cutoff of the two-way traffic, which was allowed before the plaza was installed on Drew Street, has crippled their business.

photo 2 (4)

They held a meeting in August with the DOT and the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS), which is the organization that is in charge of the maintenance and upkeep of the plaza, to talk about the issues they have faced since it was installed in November of 2013.

There, Dalila Hall, DOT commissioner for Queens, said the DOT would review the issues with it and come up with a plan. The reinstatement of parking was the outcome of the meeting, but the business owners have said they won’t stop fighting until the whole plaza is removed so they can have the two-way street back.

They have started a petition signed by both Brooklyn and Queens storekeepers, as the plaza is on the borderline of the boroughs, that asks for it to be removed entirely.

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EXCLUSIVE: $40M Belt Parkway project to benefit Jamaica Bay


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the DEP

Hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage that now overflow into ecologically fragile Jamaica Bay every year will be diverted to treatment plants under a new project being launched by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

A new $40 million initiative split into two smaller projects is set to begin in 2015 in South Ozone Park by the Belt Parkway to reduce sewer overflows into both Bergen and Thurston Basin, two bodies of water that ultimately lead into Jamaica Bay.

City officials said they are taking pains to minimize the impact on traffic along the Belt Parkway from construction of one of the new sewage overflow pipelines that will cross under the highway.

The project is designed to ensure that about 300 million gallons a year of combined sewer overflow will be routed to the Jamaica Wastewater Treatment Plant, where it will be treated to Federal Clean Water Act standards, rather than being discharged untreated into the tributaries of Jamaica Bay.

As of now, there are two 36-inch sewer lines carrying sewer overflow from North Conduit Avenue under the Belt Parkway to 150th Street and 126th Avenue. When they reach that point, they connect to a 72-inch sewer line, ultimately bringing all that overflow to the Jamaica Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The DEP said that due to increased development of southern Queens, the existing pipes “no longer have sufficient capacity to carry combined flow generated north of the Belt Parkway and act as a bottleneck in the area’s drainage system.”

To relieve this issue, one of the small projects, which is slated to start in early 2015 and to be completed in 2017, will be building a new 48-inch interceptor sewer under the Belt Parkway, near the Lefferts Boulevard exit. The sewer is estimated to cost around $29 million and will provide significant additional capacity within the area’s drainage system, which will ultimately reduce overflows into Bergen Basin by approximately 135 million gallons a year.

Photo courtesy of DEP

Photo courtesy of DEP

The other project, set to start in late spring and finish in the summer of 2016, is estimated to cost around $11 million. In that phase, the DEP will install three hydraulic levees at key junctions in the area’s sewer network. During dry days, the levees will remain closed as the system will not need to push out any excess water into the basins. When there is a heavy rainstorm, the levees will be forced down by the pressure of the flow and allow for the water to be drained into the basins.

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This will optimize the carrying capacity of the sewer pipes during rainstorms and reduce sewer overflow into Bergen Basin by about 65 million gallons a year and into Thurston Basin by about 102 million gallons a year.

In order to minimize disruption to traffic on the Belt Parkway during construction, the DEP will be using a microtunnelling machine to install the new sewer line, allowing contractors to do most of their work underground, passing under the highway. The machine will launch from the north side of the Belt Parkway and be retrieved on the southern end.

The DEP has started to deliver the materials to the staging area for the project, which is along the southern side of the Belt Parkway by Lefferts Boulevard.

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

There will be some closures of  lanes in both directions, mostly at night and during weekends. The DEP said that they will be working with the Department of Transportation to notify communities and motorists of any closures.

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More safety improvements coming to Woodhaven Boulevard


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Woodhaven Boulevard is one step closer to becoming safer as the Department of Transportation (DOT) is widening some of the medians for pedestrians crossing the street.

The DOT installed temporary pedestrian safety areas at multiple intersections. These are designated areas that are set off by yellow safety cones that widen the medians for pedestrians to stand on.

The changes come as part of the Woodhaven Boulevard congested corridors study from 2012.

The study outlined the major problems with the busy 3.2-mile thoroughfare from Queens Boulevard to Rockaway Boulevard.

The safety areas have been set up at the intersections of Woodhaven Boulevard and Queens Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard and the Long Island Expressway. The DOT is now looking to remove these temporary safety areas and make them permanent by adding concrete to “improve the boulevard’s walkability,” according a spokeswomen.

From Union Turnpike to Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South to Rockaway Boulevard, the corridor stretches out to two main roads and two service roads.

Most of the cement medians along these portions of boulevard that are currently in place are small in width. With narrow medians, there is the danger that one false step for pedestrians could have potentially tragic consequences as traffic is speeding by.

Some of the newer work done by the DOT along the boulevard is in this specific area. Just last week the DOT added a temporary pedestrian safety improvement area at the northbound intersection of 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, which is between Park Lane South and Rockaway Boulevard. The area was surrounded by yellow safety cones and built out beyond the cement to the end the crosswalk.

The DOT did not immediately respond to a request on whether this intersection will be fully built out.

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Jamaica of the future imagined by residents


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Imagine Jamaica with more affordable housing, better transportation and more, higher-paying localized jobs.

That was the vision put forward for the neighborhood when more than 100 residents and community advocates attended the city-run Jamaica Planning Initiative meeting this past weekend.

“We’ve been talking to ourselves for too long in this community,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “We care about the future and are so excited for this plan going forward.”

With so much change having hit the neighborhood already, the city came up with the idea of meeting with local residents to find out what they want in the future. The Jamaica Planning Initiative was a community workshop that broke up residents in attendance into four small groups: 1) transportation, public space and urban design, 2) housing and commercial development, 3) Jamaica identity, branding and marketing and 4) Jamaica jobs. Residents chose the issue that they felt was most pertinent.

They focused on the study area east of the Van Wyck Expressway to Farmers Boulevard and north of Linden Boulevard to Union Turnpike.

Topics discussed were plans for more affordable housing units, finding safer ways for pedestrians to cross streets, creating a localized job market for residents in the community, upgrading small business opportunities and bringing better transportation to the neighborhood.

One issue that was brought up by residents was the concern for more affordable housing.

“We need affordable places for people to live that don’t make much money,” one resident said in a focus group. “That is where the money should be invested.”

At this point, the city agencies working on the project, which include the DOT, Regional Plan Association, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the NYC Small Business Service among local elects, were looking for community feedback so they can move along to the next phase, which is the Jamaica Action Plan. It is the final step before actual implementation.

“The Jamaica Action Plan will incorporate your crucial feedback on topics of focus and opportunity,” said Cali Williams, vice president of the NYC EDC. “Based on today’s charrette sessions, the city will release a set of realistic projects and programs to improve and enliven the experience of Jamaica.”

The workshop turned out to be a major success for all parties.

Regarding the next step, which is the implantation process, the projects will be identified as short-, medium- and long-term proposals. Some of the short-term projects will begin “right away,” according to the EDC, and they and local elects are looking for the continued support of the neighborhood.

“Queens is the diamond of all boroughs,” Congressman Gregory Meeks said. “But we can’t have the greatness we are unless everybody participates in the building of our community.”

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DOT launches annual ‘Bike to School’ competition


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of East-West School of International Studies

The wheels have started turning as local schools compete to be part of a Department of Transportation (DOT) program promoting safe bicycling and active transportation alternatives.

The third annual Bike to School competition, launched by the DOT on Tuesday, is a curriculum-driven program with the mission of promoting bicycle riding as a fast, safe and healthy way to get around.

All middle and high schools in the five boroughs can apply, and five schools will be chosen to participate in the 2015 Bike to School program. Applications will be accepted through Jan. 7, 2015.

“Cycling is a great way for young New Yorkers to be active, explore their neighborhood, grow independently, and develop street safety habits,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “I am pleased to bring a program to the city’s youth to encourage cycling as a great mode of transportation.”

The three-year program began in 2010 after the DOT collaborated with Bike New York to host the first Bike to School Day ride with M.S. 51 in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

During the first year, the chosen schools are given a “starter kit” with curriculum material, technical assistance to identify safer routes, the installation of bike racks and other DOT support. Bike New York and Recycle-a-Bicycle, partner organizations in the program, will offer extra services, such as safe riding assemblies, learn-to-ride training and bike maintenance classes. 

In the second year, the schools will then move to operate the program individually, with the DOT continuing classroom curriculum and organizing events. 

For the final year, each of the five schools will be responsible for the in-class curriculum and will organize separate celebratory bike parades, marking the completion of the program. 

“This program helps our students develop healthy and safe habits, and I am excited to see more schools and students from across the city take advantage of it,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said. “The Bike to School program offers our children a chance to learn important and useful skills like bike safety and maintenance, as well as explore and celebrate their community.”

Six schools have previously been part of the Bike to School program including Flushing’s East-West School of International Studies.

To apply for the Bike to School program and for more information, visit www.nyc.gov/biketoschool.

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Select Bus Service lanes to speed up travel along Woodhaven Boulevard


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of MTA

Transit officials unveiled three potential designs for Woodhaven Boulevard’s new Select Bus Service (SBS), slated to be the first rapid transit lane in the city physically separated from traffic.

The MTA and Department of Transportation (DOT) have to choose whether to either quickly create designated lanes off-set from the curb with room for parking; extend sidewalks that would meet the off-set lanes; or dig up medians and build main road bus lanes.

Whichever design is chosen, the route will run from Queens Boulevard to the Rockaways and will allow for three lanes of traffic on both sides of the corridor.

In the first option, the off-set bus lanes would be one lane out from the curb, leaving space for parking along the boulevard. This option would warrant the least construction out of the three proposed routes.

Additionally, the DOT would build out the sidewalk at designated “SBS bus bulb stations.” In that case, the sidewalk would be extended out to the off-set bus lanes to allow more room for passengers waiting to get on the bus.

The second proposal would create main road bus lanes in the right lane throughout the designated area. From Union Turnpike to Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South to Rockaway Boulevard, it would run in the right lane of the main road corridor. Then, it would take the right lane from Rockaway Boulevard south to the Rockaways.

If main road bus lanes were put in, the DOT would come in and rip up much of the medians separating the main roads from the service roads and widen them so that people waiting for the bus have at least 7 to 10 feet of curb space to stand on.

They would also be building new medians in certain designated areas that have not all been determined yet.

For the final proposal, the red painted lanes would run through the middle of each corridor where the left lanes currently are.

To do this type of project, the DOT would come in and rip up the corridors that separate north- and south-bound traffic and expand them where necessary.

Furthermore, for the median lanes, north- and south-bound buses will travel right next to each other. For north-bound stops, the median for people to stand on will be on the east side of the bus, and for south-bound stops, travelers will wait on the west side.

All plans at this point are still being studied by the agencies. They will continue to work in more detail on every section of the boulevard for each proposal and will also have more community outreach, according to a representative who is working on the project.

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