By Sarina Trangle
Elected officials pleaded with the city to park its plans of demolishing the municipal garage near Borough Hall and the Queens courthouse, but ultimately lost out.
The city Department of Transportation announced Tuesday at 5 p.m. that it would shut what its website describes as a 600-spot garage beginning Wednesday due to safety concerns.
It noted traffic enforcement agents would be assigned to the area and DOT would suspend alternate side parking nearby through Friday.
The department declined to answer specific questions about the future of the 1963-era garage at 80-25 126th St.
But City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s office (D-Forest Hills) said DOT planned to knock down the garage and operate a 300-spot surface parking lot in its place. Her staff said it was not given any timeline for the demolition or construction work.
“I understand that the municipal lot is no longer safe and needs to be closed,” Koslowitz said in a statement. “What I don’t understand is why city agencies, having come to this conclusion months ago, did not notify the community and elected officials so that we might better plan for the closing of this parking field.”
Koslowitz, Borough President Melinda Katz, District Attorney Richard Brown and other elected and court officials wrote Mayor Bill de Blasio Sept. 18 requesting that his administration reconsider plans to close the Queensboro Hall Municipal Parking Garage Oct. 1. They noted consultants previously had said perilous portions of the parking garage could be closed for repairs while other areas remained open to drivers. The Queens officials argued this would have been easier to grapple with than giving two weeks’ notice before shutting a garage largely serving Queens Supreme Court and the civic hall visitors.
“Closing the Muni Lot will decrease the precious available public parking for two of the busiest government buildings in the borough by nearly 500 spots in an area that is undergoing extensive construction, has a busy public school and where there is no available street parking,” the letter said.
The mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Consultants’ February 2014 study of the garage notes it has not had significant repairs since 1985. The concrete was split and cracked, particularly beneath the roof, which has defective drains, the report said. Similarly a broken elevator, impassable stair towers and cracked asphalt were highlighted.
The consultants estimated it would be more cost effective to demolish the garage than to pay roughly $44 million to repair a structure with about 15 years of use left, according to a June 2014 letter from the city Department of Design and Construction to DOT.
“It is clear to us, based on a full review of the consultant reports, that the DOT had a choice to repair or demolish the structure and DOT chose to demolish,” the elected officials’ letter read. “The efficient functioning and operation of the Criminal Court and the Supreme Court would be severely hampered by DOT’s proposed immediate closure… the summons part alone attracts almost 80,000 litigants a year to Borough Hall, not to mention the numerous attorneys and family members who accompany the litigants.”
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.