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City DOT agrees to make change to busy pedestrian thoroughfare

By Juan Soto

The timing was perfect. After last Friday’s prayer services at the Jamaica Muslim Center, and with hundreds of people thronging the street, the long-awaited message was heard.

Mosque leaders and elected officials announced the city Department of Transportation officially gave the go-ahead to transform a section of 168th Street in Jamaica Hills from a two-way roadway into a one-way street.

With that battle already won, the war continues.

Residents, the Jamaica Muslim Center and the lawmakers are now pushing the city agency to install a speed bump and new traffic signals.

“We are confident the speed bump is going to happen,” Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said in front of the mosque.

Between residents, members of the mosque and two nearby high schools, thousands of pedestrians walk down the narrow pathway everyday. The pressure to change the traffic pattern at 168th Street between Highland Avenue and Gothic Drive mounted when a 16-year-old member of the Jamaica Muslim Center was run over by a van as he was walking on the sidewalk in April. The teen is still recovering from his injuries.

“This street has been a danger to pedestrians for many years,” said Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows). He hopes that the new changes are put into place by the end of the summer.

“There are a lot of smiling faces,” Weprin said. “Today we are celebrating and saying thank you.”

The lawmaker applauded the de Blasio administration and the DOT for moving forward with the new street safety measures as part of the Vision Zero initiative.

According to the DOT, the changes will have little impact on traffic circulation. In a letter sent to Community Board 8, who requested the safety measures changes in name of the Jamaica Muslim Center,the block most likely will operate northbound. The city agency is also considering the possibility of restoring street parking.

Residents and the Muslim center want the DOT to expedite the changes in the busy thoroughfare now.

“Ramadan is coming”, said Akhter Hussain, general secretary of the Jamaica Muslim Center, referring to the holiest month for Muslims, which begins June 28. “We hope to see the changes as soon as possible.”

The president of the mosque, Wahedur Rahman, applauded the decision by the DOT, but added that “now we need to see the real result to make our street safe.”

There was joy at the mosque’s entrance.

“We did it,” said activist Mazeed Uddin, of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor. “We changed it.”

Mohammed Tohin, from CB 8, said that once the changes are in place “our community will be able to walk the streets safer.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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