Tag Archives: Francis Lewis Park

Residents: Area around Whitestone park unsafe for pedestrians

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Getting to and from a Whitestone playground is no walk in the park, some residents say.

The lack of a crosswalk or traffic controls at the 3rd Avenue and 147th Street entrance to Francis Lewis Park is dangerous to pedestrians, said Malba Civic Association president Alfredo Centola.

“It’s a beautiful park,” Centola said. “These poor kids, with their parents, whenever they come to the park to play, they have to take their lives in their hands.”

Most residents must cross three-way traffic to enter and leave the park, located at the edge of the East River, since the majority of homes in the area lie across 147th Street.

Irene Rama of Whitestone said sometimes she and her kids are forced to stop in the middle of the street to avoid an oncoming car even after stopping to look in every direction beforehand.

Residents say a piece of property, bordered by jutting construction boards, that is being developed directly next to the park impairs the vision of pedestrians trying to cross.

“It’s a long stretch,” said Rama. “There are kids running all the time. There should be something here. It’s a huge intersection.”

Mark Felber, 67, who lives down the street from the park, said he would like to see better traffic controls.

“This is a popular street,” he said. “I have grandkids. They run over there and there’s no stop sign.”

There were no injuries at the intersection in question between 2007 and 2011, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) said.

But the department said there were four serious ones from car accidents, not involving pedestrians, during that period at 3rd Avenue and the westbound Whitestone service road.

“While DOT has not received any recent requests related to this location, the agency will study the applicability of a stop sign or other traffic controls at 3rd Avenue and 147th Street as well as the feasibility of speed bumps in the area,” the spokesperson said.

Centola said he has sent the DOT a letter of complaint every 18 months since 2005.

Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy mailed the civic leader a response in 2011 saying the department completed an analysis and determined “Multi-Way Stop controls are not recommended at this time.”

“Factors such as vehicular and pedestrian volumes, vehicular speeds, visibility and signal spacing were all taken into consideration in making our determination,” the correspondence reads.

Shortly after the letter, the city installed one pedestrian crossing sign in front of the park, but it only faces one direction of traffic. Centola said the sign is also too high for drivers to see.

“At this point, I’m speechless and dumbfounded,” he said. “The DOT is once again being negligent and refusing to take care of the issues.”



Whitestone Bridge project angers homeowners

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Wider Bronx pier 2010w

Homeowners in Malba Gardens are feeling the toll of the $109 million project to widen the Whitestone Bridge.

“Our homes in Malba Gardens, we take great pride in them. We put a lot of money into these homes, and the last thing we want to see is our values decrease from this expansion,” said resident Antonio Melone. “That is my domain, and I will do everything to protect it. And every resident in Malba Gardens is willing to do the same. If it takes for us to protest on that bridge, we will do that.”

According to MTA Bridges and Tunnels, the project will provide wider 12-foot lanes on the bridge with new emergency breakdown lanes. Reconstruction efforts also promise a brand new playground and new location for Francis Lewis Park, which is expected to open by early May.

But while construction may mean brand new swings, a jungle gym and newly-planted trees for the neighborhood’s children, parents are saying the overall picture is far from perfect.

“The bridge is actually moving 18 feet closer to the homes,” Melone said. “We also lost a lot of trees that were 40, 50 years old. There are a lot of issues and concerns that we have about this.”

Resident Alfredo Centola said losing the trees has not helped alleviate the growingly-noticeable noise issues since the project’s groundbreaking. The construction, he fears, will also lead to increased traffic and pollution. “As of right now, it’s an inconvenience, and there is a negative impact with the noise,” Centola said. “We just want to make sure when the construction is over that they’ll build an eight-foot wall to mitigate the noise.”

Malba Gardens homeowners said there was talk earlier about building a barrier to block out racket from the bridge, but officials said they could not verify the possibility due to the project’s premature stage.

That’s unacceptable. We can’t wait until the end of the project to know,” Centola said. “They’re stringing us along.”

MTA Bridges and Tunnels officials said construction on the Queens end of the bridge began in the fall. Ongoing work will take place for over two more years.