By Scott Sieber
During a weekend meeting at the HANAC Senior Citizens Center in Astoria, Maloney lauded the projects as necessary contributions to “the most workable mass transit system in the country.””That's why we need the East Side Access,” Maloney said. “It will move more people than any other MTA project.”The passing of the Transportation Bond Act in the last election slated $450 million toward the East Side Access project, part of which will be constructed in Long Island City. The line will carry Long Island Rail Road commuters across Manhattan to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side. It will also create a new stop in Sunnyside. The federal government has committed billions to the project.Joe Petrocelli, deputy vice president of finance and administration of MTA Capitol Construction, went over a laundry list of benefits the project is expected to bring upon its completion in 2012.As the first extension of the LIRR in 100 years, the list includes the creation of a new stop in Sunnyside near Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue, a new Manhattan terminal, an increase in peak-hour LIRR service by 45 percent and the ability to serve 161,000 customers. In Queens, construction will take place primarily underground through a mixed base of rock and soil, he said. In Manhattan, construction takes considerably longer as diamond tipped boring drills must grind through bedrock in order to complete the tunnels.”The machines can remove about 40 feet of rock a day,” he said.Plans for the Sunnyside station have not been examined at length, he said, but he did say the new platforms will be built with escalators and elevators to the street. “That happens much later in the program, closer to 2012,” he said. “So we really haven't spent a tremendous amount of time yet in terms of design or architecture … It happens in six or seven years, so there is time to do consultations with the community.”Other projects slated for the area include the reconstruction of the Queens Plaza roadway Penny Lee, with the Department of City Planning, called the 250-foot-wide roadway of Queens Plaza “an accident waiting to happen” and touted new designs to include green space.”There will be 30-foot-wide landscaped medians that will have pedestrian paths as well as a bike lane,” she said. “You'll be able to come over Queens Boulevard, get onto the median and ride right onto the Queensborough Bridge. It will be very safe.”Pedestrians will also get more crossing time, she said.In another presentation, Parks Department representative Jennifer Coo said seawall repairs are in the works for nearly all of western Queens' shoreline up to the Flushing Bay. The restoration is slated to include greenways and bike paths.”Everything we're talking about today is really about improving the quality of life in our communities,” said chair of Community Board 2, Joe Conley.Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.