Whitestone exit sparks spat

Whitestone exit sparks spat
Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

A group of Malba Gardens residents want cars taking the last exit from the Whitestone Expressway diverted to another street or stopped altogether.

Alfredo Centola, president of the Malba Gardens Civic Association, is pushing to have 4th and 5th avenues made one-way from 147th Street to the Whitestone Expressway service road and opposes the reopening of the temporarily shuttered 3rd Avenue exit, although his plan is not popular with the rest of the neighborhood.

The one-way arrangement would prevent cars and commercial trucks getting off the exit from turning eastward down those streets, which he said are populated with children who often play outside. The exit currently is closed while crews refurbish the Whitestone Bridge, but it is set to open again in early 2015.

“We’re looking to get this street changed to a one-way with traffic going toward the bridge,” he said. “Once they open that exit, there is going to be a flood.”

In 2010, the city Department of Transportation did a study and found that 107 cars per hour traveled eastbound down 5th Avenue and caused two accidents between 2004 and 2008. More than 30 percent of those cars were speeding as high as 38 mph, the study showed.

The department found no imminent danger and decided to leave it up to Community Board 7 whether or not to go ahead with the change.

If the two avenues were switched, the only option for cars heading east would be to take 3rd Avenue, which the study showed was even more fraught with problems.

Six accidents occurred between the service road and 147th Street between 2004 and 2008, two of which caused the only injuries identified in the study. A maximum of 152 vehicles per hour traveled eastbound down that road, which runs between Francis Lewis Park and a row of houses. Speeding data was not available.

Centola believes the ultimate solution would be to permanently close the 3rd Avenue exit.

“With the exit closed now, everybody was worried that there was going to be a headache,” he said. “But it has been working out fine.”

That assertion was disputed by CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty, who said they have been receiving complaints about backup on the detour route.

The board previously conducted a survey that found residents along the avenues in question supported the one-way conversions and exit closure, while homeowners in the surrounding blocks who also used the thoroughfares did not. CB 7 does not support Centola’s idea of closing the exit on a permanent basis, Kelty said, but will revisit the one-way conversions once the exit is reopened.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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