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a One- Way Nightmare

Woodhaven Residents Rail Against Proposed Changes To Traffic Flow

Community residents came out in force to protest two proposed changes to the streets of Woodhaven and Ozone Park at a special town hall held last Wednesday, Feb. 1 at St. Elizabeth’s School.

Local resident Margaret Finnegan (left), armed with her own map, shows how the proposed change to the traffic flow of 89th Avenue would affect the area, as Queens DOT Commissioner Maura Mc- Carthy looks on.

“We take each request, analyze the request and bring it before the community board,” said DOT Queens Commissioner Maura Mc- Carthy of the proposed modifications to the traffic flow of 89th Avenue and to 84th Street. “We presented this to your community board already.”

However, she added that the vote on the changes was postponed due to concerns that the FDNY and local residents didn’t have an opportunity to voice concerns on the plan.

She then unveiled the first proposal, to convert 89th Avenue from a two-way to a one-way eastbound between Woodhaven Boulevard and 97th Street.

Proposal 1: 89th Avenue

She displayed a view of 89th Av- enue and explained that the street is 31 feet wide. With parking on both sides of the street taking up space, only 17 feet are left for two-way traffic, or 8.5 feet per lane-below the nine-foot standard.

In the meantime, she noted, P.S. 306 opened, which serves 360 students.

The DOT is recommending an eastbound traffic flow to allow school buses to pull up directly to the school and drop off children.

To go around, residents will have to travel to 97th Street and over to 91st Avenue.

McCarthy stated that while most of the correspondence has been against the plan, the original request to make the street one-way came from community requests.

She later claimed that Board 9 asked for the change twice.

However, local resident Margaret Finnegan claimed that the DOT’s maps were incorrect, and came armed with her own.

She claimed that if the proposal goes through, residents would have to either take a longer route or make an illegal turn on 91st Street to travel through the area.

“The Sanitation Department does it,” she noted. “I don’t have a big truck.”

Some residents suggested the removal of parking during school hours, while others wanted everything left as is.

“Our only way into the block is 89th Avenue,” said one

One resident called the proposal “myopic,” claiming that the removal of a two-way street in a neighborhood “landlocked” by Forest Park would have an effect on the entire neighborhood

“To take away two way streets for the convenience of a block or two doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” said the resident.

Ed Wendell of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, armed with a laser pointer, claimed that the area narrows closer to the corner, and suggested that parking be removed nearer to the corner.

“I’ve heard a lot of alternatives to this change,” said the WRBA’s Maria Thomson (a member of Board 9), who asked if the DOT would pursue them. McCarthy responded that “we would not continue to explore alternatives unless requested.”

However, she later stated that the agency cannot pull a request that goes to the community board.

Proposal 2: 84th Street

The second proposal is to convert 84th Street from a one-way northbound to a one-way southbound street between Liberty and Atlantic avenues.

She claimed that after the DOT turned the street into a northbound one-way street in 2009, the agency almost immediately received calls for the traffic flow to be reversed.

McCarthy admitted that the area would lose a northbound entry point into the area, leaving Woodhaven Boulevard (which, residents pointed out, cannot be accessed via Liberty Avenue if wishing to travel northbound).

Sam Esposito of Board 9 pointed out that this would affect a route to the Belt Parkway.

“It’s the only safe route we have to get across Atlantic (Avenue) into Woodhaven,” he added.

The WRBA’s Vance Barbour chimed in that the street is a “major artery to bring business onto Atlantic Avenue.”

In response to the earlier questions regarding the FDNY’s position, McCarthy claimed that the agency is “not opposed to this,” but Esposito claimed that local firefighters are “absolutely against this.” A member of the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps also stated his company’s opposition, claiming that any accident would create large traffic problems.

“No matter how loud your siren, no matter how bright your light, you cannot go against traffic,” he told McCarthy.

Wendell claimed that the change would split the communities of Woodhaven and Ozone Park.

“These two communities have a relationship that depends on being able to cross the border (of the two areas),” said Wendell.

Changing the flow of the street, he claimed, would be “turning Atlantic Avenue from a border into a barrier.”

What’s next

The vote on the proposal will be made at Board 9’s Tuesday, Feb. 14 meeting at 7:45 p.m. at the Kew Gardens Community Center at 80-02 Kew Gardens Rd.

Several residents complained that the vote will be taken far away from the area; while Assemblyman Michael Miller asked Board 9 to postpone the vote or change the meeting location (and issued a press release to that effect the day after the meeting).

However, Thomson told reporters after the meeting that neither would be possible.

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