Board 5 Cmtes. Also Eye Cross Harbor Plan
Plaza construction, traffic safety measures and debate over the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel dominated the Community Board 5 Transportation and Public Transit Committees meeting last Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the board’s Glendale office.
While many eagerly await the improvements slated for the Glendale Memorial Triangle, committee members expressed outrage and concern over the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans to construct a second plaza in the vicinity without obtaining the board’s consent.
“They’re actually planning two plazas, contrary to what we thought,” stated Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri.
According to the DOT’s website, current plans for the plaza at the Glendale Memorial Triangle include the closing of 70th Street between Myrtle and Cooper avenues in an attempt to “quadruple the amount of pedestrian public space at the triangle to approximately 4,000 square feet.”
Construction will begin in the spring of 2015 and will include tree planting, portable chairs and the relocation of the triangle’s Christmas tree to a place of prominence for yearly holiday tree lighting ceremonies.
The committee expressed concerns over “secret” DOT plans to close 71st Street between Myrtle and Cooper avenues in an attempt to construct a second pedestrian plaza without seeking permission from the community board.
“All the documents were signed off without review,” Arcuri stated, “and without [District Manager Gary Giordano’s] traffic study for the east-end plaza.”
Arcuri estimated that the plans and documents for the second plaza were signed off in October without Board 5’s knowledge.
According to Arcuri, the board approached the DOT with several traffic safety concerns regarding the plan to close 71st Street. One major issue included concerns over vehicles exiting the McDonald’s drive-thru at Myrtle and Cooper avenues. McDonald’s traffic exiting the drive-thru is currently prohibited from making a left turn onto westbound Myrtle Avenue; cars looking to travel westbound currently use 71st Street as an alternative route.
Board 5 placed several requests to the DOT for a traffic impact study at the site prior to the proposed street closures, but have failed to receive a response.
“We tried to explain our concerns to them and were told that they would look at it,” Arcuri added, “but we discovered that the documents were already signed off.”
In addition to an official DOT traffic impact study, CB5 has also requested a traffic signal at 71st Place and Myrtle Avenue. Giordano opposed closing the segment of 71st Street due to the potentially negative impact on local street traffic.
“The plan to close 71st Street will not work unless 71st Place is reversed,” he explained; 71st Place is currently a southbound one-way street.
Cross Harbor comes alive
The committee weighed the benefits and disadvantages surrounding the long-disputed Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel Project. An environmental impact statement, just released by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration, sparked the committee’s discussion.
According to Arcuri, the plan proposes three methods for transport: train tunnel; a train and truck tunnel; or a combination of tunnel transport with float barges. The proposed tunnel connecting Brooklyn to New Jersey beneath New York Harbor would reportedly cost between $7-11 billion to construct.
Arcuri took issue with the report’s lack of attention to local impact.
“What I don’t think they address at all is the offloading,” he stated. “They’re looking at taking all these trailers off the road, but they don’t address how many box trucks they’re adding to the road to do the distribution. This is our basic problem.”
Giordano echoed these concerns: “If this is ever going to go through for the rail option, there are supposed to be offload points along the Bay Ridge line, which comes right over Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road.”
If this were enacted, according to Arcuri, every street bridge along the Bay Ridge line would have to be raised or the tracks would have to be lowered.
“It’s a big impact on people, especially on residential communities here, south of the cemeteries,” he stated. “They just briefly gloss over the residential aspect of the adjacent properties. There’s a lot to consider.”
Traffic safety issues
The committee made several traffic safety recommendations in response to an accident that claimed the life of a pedestrian at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Palmetto Street on Oct. 30.
Arcuri drafted a letter to Queens Borough DOT Commissioner Dalila Hall requesting a review of Board 5’s traffic safety recommendations for the intersection. Suggestions included pedestrian fencing and the use of perpendicular crosswalks.
“You don’t add extra crossings at bad intersections,” he stated.
Board 5 made similar traffic safety recommendations to the DOT for the intersection of 80th Street and Cooper Avenue, the site of another fatal accident that claimed the life of Martin Srodin on Oct. 23.
According to Transportation Committee Co-Chair John Schell, the board suggested safety measures such as turning lanes and arrows nearly a decade ago, during Atlas Park construction. Schell stated that the DOT wanted to postpone these changes until after the mall was built so that they could study pedestrian walking patterns.
The board’s recommendations have yet to be implemented.
The committee also voiced opposition to a Select Bus Service proposal that would create a bus lane with bus stops along the center median of Woodhaven Boulevard. Arcuri was especially concerned about the safety of students commuting by bus to and from area schools.
“The plan could kill about 40 kids a day,” he said. “They all run for the bus. They may not look for the light if they have to run out to an island in the middle of the street.”
Arcuri instead advocated for the reactivation of the Rockaway Beach line to ease congestion on Woodhaven Boulevard.
“We were the first group to come out in support of the Rockaway line,” he added. “We need the railroad because it carries more people, faster and cheaper.”
Maspeth industrial zone
Jean Tanler, coordinator of the Maspeth Industrial Business Association (MIBA), was on hand to discuss concerns over trucks illegally parking in the vicinity of Borden Avenue.
She said that “58th Street is a really dangerous situation because trucks are double and triple parking, while using the truck route to load and unload.”
According to a complaint received by the committee, trucking companies have been frequently double parking outside the Coca-Cola plant.
“Coca-Cola has since addressed the issue,” Tanler stated. “They created extra parking on their lot for trucks.”
Giordano called the problem “an ongoing enforcement issue.” The majority of the problems are occurring outside Supreme Lumber and Plumbing, which recently moved to 58th Street.
“I’ve been calling that in at least once a week,” Tanler explained, “but I’m not getting any traction with enforcement.”
Tanler also voiced concern over the MTA’s plan to reroute the Q67 bus. The new route would extend commutes for Maspeth residents, as well as require a traffic light at the intersection of Maurice Avenue and the railroad crossing, a move Tanler believes the DOT will not be in favor of.
“It may not even be feasible,” she added.
Other problems with the proposed reroute plan include potential traffic tie-ups between Q67 buses and the trucks exiting the UPS facility in Maspeth. Tanler called the situation a “stalemate” and stated that MTA has yet to return her phone calls and emails.
The Community Board 5 Transportation and Public Transit Committees will next meet in January 2015 at a date to be announced. Meetings are held at the Board 5 office, located at 61-23 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale, beginning at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call the board at 1-718-366-1834.