Benches mark new beginning for Bell Boulevard streetscape

Benches mark new beginning for Bell Boulevard streetscape
Photo by Phil Corso
By Phil Corso

After several years of planning, parts of a Bell Boulevard streetscape project came to fruition as benches were bolted into the sidewalks of Bayside.

According to Judy Limpert, of the Bayside Business Association, 14 benches were installed along Bell Boulevard between Northern Boulevard and 35th Avenue this week as part of the first phase of the project. Some new trees, upgraded sidewalks and antique lampposts will follow, she said.

“We’re very happy to see this done,” Limpert said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The silver benches were installed through the city’s CityBench program in collaboration with the city Department of Transportation. The program was funded by a $2.4 million Bus Livability Grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

Limpert said the project was awaiting final approval from the city Department of Design and Construction, which should come within the next month, before it is turned over to the Bayside Village Business Improvement District.

“It is the hope of the Bayside Business Association to bring more patrons to the businesses by making Bayside a beautiful place to shop as well as live,” the BBA said in a statement.

The earliest records involving the streetscape project went as far back as 2003, according to Community Board 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld.

But over the years, the plan has been held up and stalled on several occasions due to funding issues and sewer-related concerns, CB 11 said.

The board has consistently supported the BBA-proposed Bell Boulevard upgrades and unanimously voted in favor of the project several times between 2003 and 2011.

“There has been a very positive reaction overall,” Seinfeld said. “There has been a lot of excitement. It will bring a real attractiveness to the area.”

Phase 1 of the project will take place on both sides of Bell Boulevard from 41st to 42nd avenue and was funded partly by a city Economic Development Corp. grant, according to CB 11.

At the June 2011 meeting of CB 11, Andrew Lavallee, of design company AECOM, presented a detailed look at the project’s first phase, which included a 4-foot-wide decorative stone strip behind the existing curb on Bell Boulevard, more than 50 new trees, benches, trash cans and bike racks. The entire phase should take one year to complete, he said.

Beyond the first phase, Limpert said the Bayside BID will undertake future plans in the years to come to secure funding and finalize the project.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.