Tag Archives: DOT

Jackson Heights residents call National Grid a ‘bad neighbor’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Updated 5:20 p.m.

Residents on one Jackson Heights street are calling on National Grid to be a good neighbor and take care of “dangerous” holes left unattended for weeks after digging was started last month to work on gas pipe updates.

Councilman Daniel Dromm and residents on 80th Street gathered on the block Tuesday morning to speak out against holes created by the utility company that were left ignored for weeks.

The holes, which measure about 13 feet by 3 feet and go as deep as three to six feet, were dug by National Grid in April to start renovations on underground gas lines. However, residents said that in the beginning of May work just stopped and the holes were left uncovered and surrounded by barriers and cones, most of which fell into the holes.

“The damage they have done to this street makes you understand that National Grid is a bad neighbor. You don’t come into communities, dig up streets, leave piles of dirt and then leave the exposed pipes open to all types of foul play, to children falling into them, and then not respond to the community,” Dromm said. “We are here today to demand that National Grid minimally put plates over this, fix this work, and ensure the safety of the community is taken care of here.”

Dromm added that his office communicated with National Grid several times, but no fixes have been made. The councilman said he even left his personal number and never received a call back.

Some residents expressed concerns that they have seen children playing in the holes, and others said the exposed gas lines have been letting out gaseous odors.

A Courier reporter on the scene also smelled gas odors coming out of one of the holes.

“The unfinished repair work initiated by National Grid on April 17, 2015, has not only resulted in a trip and fall hazard to pedestrians but has made us nervous because we were told originally the construction was to remedy a gas leak,” said Ricky Castro, co-op board vice president. “Despite many complaints we have received no answers about why we smell gas and if it’s safe.”

Castro added that last weekend when it rained, water filled the holes and caused the basement of one of the apartment buildings, which has storage units belonging to residents, to flood.

According to residents, National Grid workers showed up Tuesday morning but no work was being done. They also added that they have called the FDNY, Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection and were told National Grid is responsible for the holes.

A spokeswoman for National Grid said the company is committed  to ensuring the safety of the public.

She added the company is using industry-approved methods to secure the work site and have the appropriate work permits. Also, National Grid is conducting daily surveys of the area to maintain safety until the repairs are completed.

“We apologize for the inconvenience but the work is necessary to ensure a safe and reliable gas system for the community,” the spokeswoman said. “Last month during an investigation we detected a gas leak and made arrangements to schedule the repairs, working around parking restrictions on the block.”

She added the gas lines had been replaced on the street and now each home in three buildings has to be transferred to the new service lines. The company is working to notify everyone in the buildings.

Crews are expected to be on site starting Wednesday through the end of the week to complete the work and have the holes filled.

Residents are urged to call 911 or National Grid’s Gas emergency number, 718-643-4050.

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New installments to bring ‘light to shadow’ on Roosevelt Avenue


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

A stretch of Roosevelt Avenue in Corona will soon light up bright, removing residents from the shadows and bringing a sense of safety to the community.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras and the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Friday that new lampposts and LED lights are being installed down Roosevelt Avenue, a thoroughfare that has faced safety issues throughout the years.

The $500,000 project, which is part of Ferreras’ New Deal plan for Roosevelt Avenue, will replace the current lampposts and install new ones between 90th and 111th streets.

“Having lived on Roosevelt Avenue, I was eyewitness to the challenges it has with regard to safety,” Ferreras said. “Improving the environment for everyone — families, small businesses, street vendors, the LGBTQ community, drivers — has been one of my most important goals, and I am enormously proud to hit another milestone today with the installation of these lights.”

Roosevelt Avenue.

Roosevelt Avenue.

In Ferreras’ New Deal for the corridor, she aimed to make significant improvements such as creating a better business environment, increasing sanitation services and upgrading the lights.

According to the DOT, the new 78- and 91-watt LED lights will replace the 100- and 150-watt high-pressure sodium lights, giving everything around the lights a better color rendering and enhancing nighttime visibility.

The "yellow colored" lights that used to run down Roosevelt Avenue will be replaced.

The “yellow-colored” lampposts that used to run down Roosevelt Avenue will be replaced with new LED lights.

“Thanks to the council member’s support, the new LED lights and poles that DOT is currently installing on Roosevelt Avenue help build on Vision Zero’s safety goals,” DOT Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia said. “The improved lighting enhances visibility for all, boost[s] the look of the streetscape and saves on energy costs.”

The lights are also part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s OneNYC Initiative, which looks to reduce the city’s overall carbon footprint by more than 30 percent by 2030.

The installation of the new light poles began last week and the DOT plans to have all work completed by the fall.

“[Roosevelt Avenue] will no longer be viewed as a blighted area. This will no longer be viewed as the shadow area of our community. We have brought light to shadow and I think that’s very important. It’s something that this community has consistently asked for,” Ferreras said.

Ferreras also added that as part of her participatory budgeting she plans to allocate funds to get new lampposts and LED lights from 90th to 82nd streets as well.

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DOT proposes changes to dangerous Myrtle Avenue intersection


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Image via Google Maps

Representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT) offered a plan during the Community Board 5 combined Transportation Services and Public Transportation committees meeting Tuesday night to fix problems at a dangerous Myrtle Avenue intersection.

The Forest Avenue/Myrtle Avenue/George Street intersection was brought to the DOT’s attention because it is located within the Myrtle Avenue priority corridor.

This intersection “is listed among the corridors for which the Department of Transportation will design and implement safety projects as part of the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims at eliminating all traffic-related fatalities,” said Arban Vigni, project manager with the DOT.

The high-traffic area sees an abundance of not only vehicles, but also pedestrians, with high volumes of seniors and students using the crosswalk. Two buses, the Q39 on Forest Avenue and the Q55 on Myrtle Avenue, also pass through the area, adding to congestion.

“Judging from the frequency and severity of crashes that occurred here between 2009 and 2013, the intersection has been designated a high pedestrian crash location,” Vigni said.

During the five-year period, there were 18 crashes, six of them involving pedestrians. Two of those crashes led to severe injuries.

“It’s also worth noting that 50 percent of pedestrians that were involved in crashes were hit while crossing with the signal, whereas the average for Queens is as low as 37 percent,” Vigni said. “This basically shows that turning vehicles do not yield properly at this intersection.”

Vigni pointed out the odd geometry of the location as one reason for the high levels of pedestrian crashes at the intersection. The star-shaped intersection has Myrtle Avenue running east to west, Forest Avenue going north to southeast and George Street going southwest.

The DOT’s proposed changes include adding a concrete curb extension on the south side of the intersection.

“The curb extension would help realign the intersection somewhat and it would shorten the southwest crosswalk by seven feet,” Vigni explained.

This would not interfere with parking on George Street because there is a fire hydrant located on that corner, which restricts vehicles from parking there.

High-visibility crosswalks were already installed on April 15 to increase visibility of pedestrians.

Finally, “peg-a-tracks,” which are yellow dashed lines, will be installed in the center of the intersection to clarify direction of travel for vehicles on Forest Avenue.

The DOT plans to implement these changes in June.

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MTA, DOT scrap plans for Main Street bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Rory Lancman's office

Facing community and political opposition, the MTA and the city Department of Transportation slammed the brakes on a proposed dedicated bus lane for the limited Q44 bus line on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills.

The news came during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association. The MTA planned to take one lane in each direction of Main Street to convert the Q44 between Flushing and Jamaica into a Select Bus Service (SBS) route.

Civic leaders and elected officials protested the plans previously, claiming the lost lane of traffic would increase vehicular traffic on Main Street while also depriving both residents and shoppers of valued parking space.

“A dedicated bus-only lane in Kew Gardens Hills was always the wrong choice for our community,” Councilman Rory Lancman said in a press release Thursday. “The proposed bus-only lane would have increased congestion, reduced parking spaces, hurt businesses and diverted cars onto residential streets.”

Lancman, along with Rep. Grace Meng, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Senators Joseph Addabbo and Toby Ann Stavisky, praised the MTA and DOT for hearing concerns about the bus lane and ultimately nixing the plan.

According to Lancman, the DOT and MTA will seek other methods to improve traffic flow on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills, including potential street reconfiguration, off-board fare collection and re-synchronizing traffic lights.

A source familiar with the plan indicated a bus-only lane is most likely for areas of Main Street north of the Long Island Expressway. However, it is not likely a bus lane would be created on Main Street south of Kew Gardens Hills due to a lack of street space.

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Design workshops scheduled for Woodhaven/Cross Bay Select Bus Service plan


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC DOT

The city Department of Transportation (DOT) will hold the first of four public design workshops for the planned Woodhaven/Cross Bay boulevards Select Bus Service (SBS) system next Thursday night in Woodhaven.

All are invited to attend the April 16 workshop at P.S. 306 NYC Academy for Discovery, located at 96-16 89th Ave. This workshop will focus solely on redesigning the portion of Woodhaven Boulevard between Union Turnpike in Glendale and Rockaway Boulevard in Ozone Park.

The following week, April 23, the DOT will hold a workshop at Queens Metropolitan High School, located at 91-30 Metropolitan Ave. in Forest Hills, focused on Woodhaven Boulevard between Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst and Union Turnpike.

An April 29 workshop at P.S. 146, located at 98-01 159th Ave. in Howard Beach, will center around Cross Bay Boulevard, and an April 30 workshop at P.S. 42, located at 488 Beach 66th St. in Arverne, will focus on implementing SBS in the Rockaways.

All of the workshops will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.

Representatives from the DOT will collect at each session “block-by-block feedback on street design and bus stop locations” for the Woodhaven/Cross Bay SBS. Last month, the DOT selected an SBS design that would include dedicated main-road bus lanes on Woodhaven Boulevard and offset bus lanes on Cross Bay Boulevard.

The plan, which requires the physical reconfiguration of Woodhaven Boulevard, also calls for the creation of SBS stations at major roadways that intersect the boulevard, such as Metropolitan and Jamaica avenues.

While each workshop focuses on a specific section, the DOT indicated that comments on any or all parts of the proposed SBS system will be accepted at all four sessions. Translation services are available and may be reserved in advance of the workshop by emailing brt@nyc.gov.

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First phase of $100M Queens Boulevard redesign to be implemented by August


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of the Department of Transportation

The voices of a concerned community have been heard, and by August, the first segment of the redesign of what is known as the “Boulevard of Death” is expected to be implemented to make it safer.

The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) announced Tuesday that it would be releasing a detailed preliminary plan to redesign a 1.3-mile portion of Queens Boulevard. The plan is based on community input gathered during a safety workshop held on Jan. 22 in Woodside.

This project, which will be reviewed by Community Board 2 and is expected to be implemented in August, launches the start of the DOT’s $100 million Green Streets initiative, which will cover all seven miles of Queens Boulevard.

The agency plans to hold more public workshops during the fall and winter for the future phases of the initiative, from 73rd Street to Eliot Avenue and from Eliot Avenue to Union Turnpike.

“After decades of crashes, many of them fatal, this corridor has been reimagined and will be redesigned to become a safer, greener and more attractive corridor for residents and businesses, suitable to traverse through the World’s Borough,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.

The first phase of the redesign, which includes the installation of a protected bike lane, covers the 1.3-mile stretch of the thoroughfare between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street.

The agency previously said it decided to focus on this section first because statistics showed there have been six fatalities since 2009 in that particular area.

Some of the features of the first redesign segment include safer crossings, increased pedestrian space and improved intersections. The preliminary plan also looks to calm the traffic on service roads and try to reduce the number of times drivers move between the main line and service roads.

Unique redesigns include a protected bike lane integrated into a widened service road median, with new pedestrian space and median-to-median crossings that “allow for a linear park-like experience,” according to the DOT.

“This work represented a major advancement in the efforts to achieve Vision Zero throughout our city,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “Thanks to the work of the DOT, we are seeing significant improvements in traffic safety in western Queens, and we look forward to seeing Queens Boulevard safety improvements thanks to this $100 million capital investment.”

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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, aims 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 to 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 contemplating 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


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.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.

IMG_3869

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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