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Ozone Park merchants lambaste Liberty Ave. Plaza

By Sarina Trangle

An Ozone Park pedestrian plaza and the road changes that came with it have been a one-way route to commercial disaster, nearby shop owners say.

Merchants convinced Community Board 9 at a hearing in Borough Hall last week to take up the future of Liberty Avenue Plaza on the border of Ozone Park and East New York during its next executive session.

CB 9 voted to back the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services Corp. in its bid to turn Drew Street and 101st and Liberty avenues into a pedestrian plaza in October.

Now entrepreneurs say the conversion of 101st Avenue from a two-way to a one-way has their customer base driving past.

Khemrad Sadoo, who has a Laundromat near the plaza, came to the hearing with water bills from 2013 and 2014, which show his business used 1.7 million gallons of water in February 2013 and 1.4 million in February 2014. He blamed his business’ drop in water use on less demand due to the plaza.

“One bill, more than one-third business is gone,” he said. “Who will accept such a plaza?”

He and about 10 other merchants rallied behind Hasib Ali as he submitted a petition against the plaza to CB 9, which organized the hearing and invited the city Department of Transportation.

Darma Diaz, chief operating officer of Bangladesh American Community Development Services, said the plaza has provided a respite for nearby children who previously played in a DOT parking lot because parks and playgrounds were scare.

Under the city’s plaza program, the nonprofit is responsible for funding and maintaining the plaza’s seating, cleaning, gardening and shoveling during the winter.

Diaz showed photos on a projector screen of salsa dancing, a mobile library and board game and Zumba events at the plaza.

Iqbal Ali, who has a pharmacy near the plaza, said the community needed such a space.

“It affects my business, but that’s not the point,” he said. “The kids have no place to play …. We don’t have a hall …. We don’t have a recreation center. This is the only place we have.”

DOT Queens Commissioner Dalila Hall said the department would weigh the feedback.

“We need to take it in as an agency and see if there is more that we can do to address the concerns,” she said.

CB 9 Chairman Ralph Gonzalez said the board would discuss its plan of action on the plaza during its next executive session.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at stran‌gle@c‌ngloc‌al.com.

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