Tag Archives: DOT

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.


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.


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.



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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


Slow zones rolling into Sunnyside

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Just days before the citywide speed limit will be decreased to 25 mph, the Sunnyside community celebrated the news that it will soon be home to two new slow zones.

The slow zones, which will be launched in Sunnyside Gardens, Woodside and Sunnyside, were designed through input from the community, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Community Board 2 (CB 2).

“There’s nothing more important than keeping our children safe,” Van Bramer said during the announcement on Monday afternoon in front of P.S. 199 in Sunnyside. “The single most important thing for the parents in our district is keeping traffic slow, calm, manageable and keeping their children safe.”

As part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative, the neighborhoods that will be included in these two slow zones were selected based on the transportation agency’s evaluation on crash history, traffic fatalities, community support, and the closeness of schools, senior centers and day care centers.

Slow zones are marked with high-visibility blue signs that warn drivers at all streets entering the zones. Each area has a speed limit of 20 mph and includes speed bumps and eight-foot-high letters on the road that read “20 MPH.”

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has already started to set up the Sunnyside Slow Zone, which is expected to be completed before the end of the year. The borders will be 36th Street, Queens Boulevard, 51st Street and part of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The area is split diagonally by Greenpoint Avenue, which is not part of the slow zone, according to the DOT.

Since 2007 there have been four fatalities in the proposed zone and, since 2008, there have been three severe pedestrian injuries and five severe injuries involving vehicle occupants.

The Sunnyside Slow Zone, which covers an area with four schools including P.S. 199, will be made up of 20 speed bumps, in addition to the current eight bumps, and 31 neighborhood slow zone gateways.

“One thing we have in our community is a lot of traffic. We have a lot of traffic that comes through our neighborhood very fast so this is what it’s about. It’s about saving lives and about improving the quality of our life in the community,” said Joseph Conley, chair of CB 2.

The Sunnyside Gardens-Woodside Slow Zone, which DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall said would begin to be implemented in spring 2015, will be bordered by 43rd Street, 38th Avenue, Barnett Avenue, 58th Street, Queens Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. There are three schools and three daycare/pre-K centers in the area.

According to the DOT, since 2007 there has been one death in the zone and three severe pedestrian injuries.

This slow zone was proposed to include 18 speed bumps, added to the already existing 12 bumps, and 19 neighborhood slow zone gateways.

“We are committed to Vision Zero, and Vision Zero starts with our children. It starts with young people. We have to make sure that not one young person ever loses their life on the streets of New York,” Van Bramer said.


Citi Bike finally coming to Queens

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

The city’s first bike share program will soon become a reality in Queens.

Long Island City and Astoria are part of a list of neighborhoods in the city that will receive Citi Bike docking stations in upcoming years, officials announced on Tuesday.

The news came as former MTA chairman and CEO Jay Walder was named the incoming CEO of Alta Bicycle Share, the operator of Citi Bike. Alta was recently bought by investment firm REQX Ventures, according to published reports.

“Even as we are enhancing and improving our system we will expand it as well, we will double the number of bikes and we will bring them to new neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens,” Walder said.

As part of the announcement, the Department of Transportation (DOT), Alta and Citi said the bike share system would expand from 330 stations and 6,000 bicycles to more than 700 stations and 12,000 bikes by the end of 2017.

Along with expanding the bike share program, Citi Bike will also overhaul every bicycle in the system, fix every existing docking station and enhance the technology used in the program.

“Anyone who uses Citi Bike regularly knows that it should be more reliable, it should be easier to use and it should be accessible to more of the city,” Walder said. “In short, Citi Bike has the potential to be so much more and today we are committing to make that potential a reality.”

While being committed to improving the service, the price rates for annual membership will jump from $95 to $149.

Although the locations of stations in western Queens have yet to be announced, local elected officials are excited that Queens will finally become a part of the Citi Bike Share program.

“Once and for all the blue bikes are in Queens,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “There is no such thing as a citywide program that does not include the great borough of Queens.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris worked with DOT last year to include Astoria in the Citi Bike plans. There are also plans to include other parts of Queens in the future, according to officials.

Last November the DOT started the process of bringing the bike share program to the western Queens neighborhoods by getting community input from Community Boards 1 and 2.

Now the agency will go back to working with the community to reassess the recommended sites for stations and see if any have changed.

“We want these blue bikes here as soon as possible because people are going to be able to experience Queens in a way that they haven’t, see our cultural institutions, shop at our restaurants, explore the wonders of the waterfront and folks from here are going to be able to have another opportunity to get around,” Van Bramer said.

Long Island City was supposed to be part of the Citi Bike’s initial phase, which debuted last May, but was pushed back after equipment damages from Superstorm Sandy caused a delay.


Second Sunnyside pedestrian plaza officially opens

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Sunnyside residents will now have more room to get together and enjoy the outdoors.

The second of two new pedestrian plazas opened in the neighborhood Friday afternoon at the intersection of 40th Street and Queens Boulevard, under the elevated No. 7 train.

Transformed from an underutilized underpass, the plaza includes tables, chairs and decorative plants. It was named Lowery Plaza after 40th Street’s original name, Lowery Street.

“The opening of Lowery Plaza is great news for Sunnyside residents,” Department of Transportation Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall said. “This new local destination will significantly improve the life of residents and the vitality of local businesses in Sunnyside and Queens.”

The plaza is part of the DOT’s NYC Plaza Program and will be managed by the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District.

Local elected officials, leaders and business owners cut the ribbon opening Lowery Plaza.

Local elected officials, leaders and business owners cut the ribbon opening Lowery Plaza.

“This is something that the community is starving for, more open space and more space to come together as a community,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris said. “The opening of this plaza on 40th Street, just like Bliss Plaza on 46th Street, is a sign of Sunnyside’s continued growth as a destination neighborhood for New Yorkers.”

In July, Bliss Plaza opened at the intersection of 46th Street and Queens Boulevard. The site also includes tables, chairs and planters. This project included leveling out a street to create a one-level pedestrian area

“We have received such positive feedback from community members and business owners about the success of Bliss Plaza, and I’m delighted to replicate this success at Lowery Plaza,” said Rachel Thieme, Sunnyside Shines BID executive director. “The plazas are fantastic neighborhood amenities and true gathering places in Sunnyside.”


City’s closure of Flushing overpass causes businesses to suffer

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The city’s extended closure of an overpass bridge in Flushing is set to end by 2016, according to a Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesman. But the long wait could continue to hurt local business owners.

LIRR train tracks cut through 149th Street, with an overpass bridge connecting the two sides of the street. The bridge has been closed since 2009, according to residents and business owners in the area.

According to a DOT spokesman, a new bridge was ready to open in 2012, but during a final inspection the department found cracks in the foundation, leading the department to keep the bridge closed.

The lack of a bridge in the area left several businesses on 41st Avenue disconnected from the other side. Traffic withered away as a result, business owners said, and led to a noticeable reduction in customers visiting the stores on 41st Avenue, near the 149th Street overpass bridge.

“I’m lucky if I get half the customers I used to get before the bridge closed,” said Kyung Yoon, who owns a deli on 41st Avenue. “It’s not good for business. We pay taxes, don’t we? So why are they taking so long to open it again?”

Yoon points out that there are other overpass bridges in the area but for most people they’re inconvenient to use.

The city’s spokesman said that the bridge will remain closed for public safety. He said they continue to meet with local stakeholders and they will continue to provide updates to the community as they work to “reopen this important connection.”

The spokesman pointed out that the city opened the bridge to foot traffic in response to the community’s needs.

While pedestrians can still use the bridge, the area has become a hang out spot for people who want to drink alcohol, residents said. And, for this reason, resident Karina Hernandez said she barely ever comes to the deli’s side of the tracks.

Karina Hernandez lives on the other side of the tracks and she often goes to Northern Boulevard instead because if she drives it’s too inconvenient to use one of the working overpass bridges. And if she walks, the people who hang out on the bridge deter her from making the journey.

“It’s so ridiculous that it’s been closed for this long,” she said. “I used to come to these places all the time. But now, I barely ever make it unless it’s during the day and I’m not driving.”

Along with Yoon’s deli, there is also a pharmacy-café, a Chinese restaurant and a Korean restaurant. The workers at the pharmacy-café and the Korean restaurant also noted that business hasn’t been as good over the last five years because of the closed overpass bridge.

The city plans on completing a final design in 2014. And in the fall of 2015 the spokesman expects a construction contract to be hashed out. The new overpass bridge should be completed within six months after that.


Artist, volunteers beautify pedestrian walkway that connects Woodside and Jackson Heights

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

One busy overpass filled with traffic from pedestrians, vehicles and bicycles has received a stroke of color.

The overpass’s pedestrian walkway, located at 37th Avenue and 69th Street, connecting Woodside and Jackson Heights, and above the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, was painted on Friday as part of the Department of Transportation’s Barrier Beautification program.

According to Emily Colasacco, director of the DOT Public Art Program, the site was chosen because recently one lane of traffic was transformed into a pedestrian safety area to connect the sidewalks on both sides of the overpass.

“The goal was to really beautify the space and call attention to this new pedestrian safety refuge,” Colasacco said. “We’re always looking for simple designs, bold colors and something that is really going to pop off the barrier, something noticeable from afar.”

Artist Eirini Linardaki, alongside volunteers from the organization New York Cares, worked from the morning into the afternoon painting the 150-foot concrete barrier of the walkway blue, red, yellow and white.

“It starts off as a concrete slab and by the end of the day it’s this beautiful mural,” Colasacco said.


The painters implemented Linardaki’s design, called “Composition in blue, yellow and red – homage to Piet Mondrian,” which depicts the game of pick-up sticks.

“I just wanted to use a game, I wanted to use something that is fun and could be interpreted in so many ways,” said Linardaki, who has been involved in public art projects for the past five years in New York City, France and Greece. “You want to create involvement and awareness, you want to allow people to be in contact with art and there’s no better way than public art.”

Along with depicting what Linardaki called a “retro” game, she said she hopes for it to be seen as an abstract art or as a New York City grid.

“I like the fact that people don’t know that it’s here; people are going to discover it when they’re passing by,” Linardaki said. “I do a lot of public art projects, because first of all it’s so direct and sometimes it draws people’s attention to spots they were not going to look at. It gives them a different perspective of their city.”

Barrier Beautification projects are temporary and Linardaki’s piece will be up for one year. The DOT will then revisit the site and decide what other art pieces can be implemented.