Jamaica rezoning a hot-button issue at CB meeting – QNS.com

Jamaica rezoning a hot-button issue at CB meeting

An official’s reassurances to members and residents of Community Board 12 of the safety and traffic improvements promised by the city’s planned redevelopment of the area around the AirTrain terminal in downtown Jamaica did little to blunt their frustration in learning that the city will use its power of eminent domain to achieve it, if necessary.
At the board’s monthly meeting held last Wednesday, February 21, New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) vice president Thomas McKnight unveiled the city’s plans for its “Station Plaza” or “Sutphin Boulevard Plaza” project, as it is alternatively called, currently under the 7-month period of public review called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The city plans to acquire six private properties to complete it.
Presented by McKnight as a crucial part of the proposed 368-block Jamaica Plan redevelopment project, the planned widening and realignment of Archer Avenue between 144th Place and 147th Place would make the area safer for both pedestrians and vehicles there, he said.
According to data provided in his presentation, 16 bus routes service the area with as many as 120 buses moving about 3,000 people during peak transit times. Additionally, the Sutphin Boulevard subway stop handled 73 percent more passengers in 2006 than it did in 1990.
“This intersection is among the worst in the entire city for pedestrian accidents,” he said specifically of Archer Avenue with Sutphin Boulevard, adding that it is also the location of about 50 vehicular accidents annually.
The plan would widen the road so that the existing subway ventilation system, now located on the north side of Archer Avenue, would become its median through the addition one lane. Sidewalks would be widened, left turn lanes added and a future concept proposes the creation of a public plaza and adjacent concessions.
“[We’re] really trying to add all the pedestrian amenities that we can,” McKnight said.
To the chagrin of many in the community, the city must acquire six private lots to achieve the project.
“The acquisition process is set up to ensure that owners receive just compensation for their properties,” McKnight said. “There’s a very detailed federally controlled process to ensure that, should the city need to use the power of eminent domain, that those owners are justly compensated.”
“We think we’ve been extraordinarily sensitive on this issue of acquisitions. It’s obviously something that we do not propose to enter lightly,” McKnight said. But, “We think it’s important if we really want to see noticeable change.”
During the question and comment period that followed, Carol Radin of 91-16 Sutphin Boulevard and one of the owners who stands to be displaced, passionately expressed her disapproval of the project.
Radin rents her three upstairs apartments to 11 tenants, three of whom are over 80 and have lived there over 30 years, she said.
“I think this community should be outraged at the amount of money they plan to spend on widening two streets so that people who take the Long Island Rail Road can have better facilities to have people pick them up and to ride,” she said of the estimated $50 million project that McKnight said had not yet been fully funded.
“I don’t think that the benefit comes to this community because basically money is needed more for hospitals and recreation centers,” Radin said.
Also now under ULURP is the planned “Atlantic Avenue Extension” project in which 95th Avenue and 94th Avenue would become one-way streets into and out of downtown Jamaica through the addition of a new street, McKnight said.
The two streets would receive new infrastructure such as sewers as well as new lighting, plantings and sidewalks at an estimated cost of $26 million which McKnight has already been fully funded with city and federal funds, McKnight said.
Community Board 12 has until April 16 to make its recommendations on the two plans. If it fails to meet that deadline it will be found in noncompliance by the city’s Planning Department and its recommendations disregarded, chairperson Gloria Black told the capacity room.
Black said that although she requested that the Planning Department give Community Board 12 more time to review the concurrent applications, her request had been denied.

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