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DOT to add traffic agents, lanes to address Flushing Commons problems

By Madina Toure

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced several new safety and mobility measures to address traffic congestion and pedestrians safety issues at the Flushing Commons construction site at a meeting of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s task force for the project.

The new measures include two NYPD traffic enforcement agents and a new dedicated left turn lane onto Main Street to promote mobility on 37th Avenue and Main Street and two NYPD traffic enforcement agents on Roosevelt Avenue and Union Street.

The measures also include a new temporary all-way stop sign and one NYPD traffic enforcement agent on 37th Avenue and 138th Street and markings designating a left turn onto Main Street for improved traffic flow on 37th Avenue approaching Main Street.

The addition of traffic enforcement agents on weekdays on 37th Avenue and Main Street and on Roosevelt Avenue and Union Street was effective March 25.

The new left turn lane and the new markings will go into effect later.

“These actions are sound steps that demonstrate the DOT’s commitment, and continual engagement by all stakeholders is necessary to keep the economic engine of downtown Flushing running amidst the building pains of development,” Katz said.

The first phase of the project, which is scheduled to be completed by 2017, will open a portion of the municipal lot as an underground garage is being built. It will also have 150 units of market-rate housing and 219,000 square feet of commercial space.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the new measures a good step in the right direction but said more work needs to be done.

Additional measures Avella said should be implemented include traffic agents at the site all day long as opposed to during rush hour and a traffic light or all way stop on 37th Avenue and Union Street.

“It still doesn’t go far enough, but at least we’ll have some relief,” he said.

Ikhwan Rim, president of the Union Street Small Business Association, said the new measure will help reduce traffic congestion in the area and bring back more customers to Flushing businesses.

But he said the developers have not held up their end of the bargain and that they are not giving back to the community.

“If you go there, they haven’t kept their word,” Rim said. “There weren’t any people outside directing pedestrians. I walk there every day.”

The DOT pushed the developers to hire traffic control agents to manage traffic in the area as well as install a pedestrian walkway.

Michael Meyer, president of F&T Group, said he supports the newly announced measures by the DOT but said he was concerned about the effectiveness of a traffic agent and a stop sign.

“What exacerbates the problem is they’ve allowed on-street parking on 11 spaces on 138th between 39th and 38th avenues and what that does along with an illegal casino bus, it blocks the ability of the other buses to make a turn onto 138th and so that intersection gets totally clogged up,” Meyer said.

He also insisted that the developers have complied with the stipulations imposed upon them by the DOT, calling Rim’s allegiations a “misrepresentation.”

The DOT is exploring other possible measures, including reversing the direction of traffic on 38th Avenue and temporarily removing the parking spaces on 37th Avenue and 138th Street along the periphery of the site.

The agency is also considering installing stop signs, traffic signals and other potential adjustments at several intersections, enhancing marking at key intersections and installing markings to designate three lanes through the temporary removal of two to three parking spaces on 37th Avenue and Main Street.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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