By Joe Anuta
Community Board 5 voted to postpone a final decision on the Maspeth bypass plan for the third month in a row last week, but the city said time is running out.
The board voted 31-12 June 15 to postpone the decision about the plan — which would route large tractor trailers around the neighborhood — after Junior’s Cheesecake said the plan would force it to move out of the borough.
“If you vote up, you are forcing them to move to Jersey,” said Arthur Goldstein, who represented the owner of the lot. “New York City and Queens can’t afford to lose another business.”
The testimony about Junior’s caused many of the board members, like Manny Caruana, who originally supported the plan, to vote for another delay.
But outside the meeting, city Department of Transportation Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy said that if the board wants a change this year, it will have to act fast.
“If it is not approved for us to implement in the summer, we would have to wait another year,” McCarthy said.
In order to implement the plan, which would route trucks coming off the Long Island Expressway down 58th Street instead of Grand and Flushing avenues, DOT needs to fix a crucial five-way intersection at Maspeth and Maurice avenues during the summer, which sees less traffic. The fix involves switching some of the streets to one-way traffic, most importantly Maurice Avenue and 58th Street.
The plan has already passed in CB 2.
But several business owners in the area said the one-way conversions would be detrimental to their operations, and that they were not told about the switch by the city.
“After our last meeting, we were criticized for not reaching out to the business community,” McCarthy said in her presentation. “I am happy to report we have accommodated every business except one.”
The DOT has made several changes in response to business owners’ concerns.
But Junior’s still has a problem.
All of the loading docks at the company face Maurice Avenue at an odd angle. If the road is made one-way northbound, as the plan suggests, it would make it nearly impossible for the trucks to make deliveries.
For example, imagine driving down a street with angled parking spaces opening toward you on the right side. It would be easy to pull in head-first into one of the spaces. But it would be difficult to stop and try to back in, especially in a full-sized tractor trailer.
Junior’s had suggested making part of Maurice Avenue two-way so the trucks could travel southbound and back in as they normally do.
But McCarthy said the DOT had considered the option and deemed it would not be safe enough to implement.
Some on the board voted to pass the plan that evening.
“I don’t think you’ll ever get a perfect plan that satisfies everyone,” board member Robert Holden said, adding that the DOT pledged to monitor the situation to make sure there were no adverse effects.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) spoke before the vote and urged the board to pass the plan.
“I support the plan,” she said. “I’m reminded of the congestion and how it affects the quality of life of residents.”
One adverse effect is the health of Maspeth residents, according to Crowley, who cited the neighborhood as having the highest asthma rate in the entire city.
The board will vote on the plan again next month.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.