Woodhaven residents enjoy small victory in SBS battle as DOT talks continue

Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

Updated Nov. 25, 1:37 p.m.


Assemblyman Mike Miller announced a major victory in the ongoing battle with the Department of Transportation (DOT) over Select Bus Service at the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting on Saturday.

According to Miller, the DOT agreed to push back implementation of the project until 2017, with talks and public forums on the subject continuing throughout 2016.

The first forum will be held on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at the American Legion Post 118, located at 89-02 91st St. in Woodhaven. Miller expects DOT representatives to roll out their plans for Select Bus Service (SBS) with possible revisions, but cautions that “nothing is set in stone.”

But a DOT spokesperson indicated on Wednesday that representatives of the agency would be at the Nov. 30 forum “to meet with [Woodhaven Business Improvement District] members and other attendees to provide updates and listen to concerns on a host of DOT-related items, including repaving and street lighting.”

“We understand that SBS is an important topic, and while no SBS plans will be presented at that meeting, DOT will be available to listen to feedback,” according to the spokesperson.

When asked at Saturday’s meeting by WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp whether there were any alternatives to SBS that have yet to be fully hashed out or discussed, Miller brought forth two proposals. The first involved the use of delineators or markers that would change the direction of a lane depending on the location and severity of traffic at specific times.

“Perhaps a lane will be northbound during morning rush hour and southbound during evening rush hour,” Blenkinsopp added.

Miller also proposed the idea of running buses along the defunct Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road — which runs parallel to Woodhaven Boulevard, several blocks east of the roadway — as an alternative to SBS lanes. Benefits of the plan, according to Miller, include a reduction in noise in comparison to restored train service, as well as added privacy and security for residents living adjacent to the tracks.

WRBA President Martin Colberg spoke in favor of Miller’s idea to use the former Rockaway line as an active bus route.

“Instead of putting more buses on this corridor, let’s take some away and utilize another piece of property,” he said. “It brings the safety level back to standard, so we’re not putting people in the middle of the street to get a bus. I think it’s a good idea.”

Forest Park Co-op resident Jay Van Devan also voiced concerns over the possibility of losing much-needed parking spaces to proposed SBS lanes. Van Devan organized a petition urging the DOT not to remove parking spaces along Woodhaven Boulevard between Myrtle Avenue and 85th Road.

“Parking is really tough over there,” he explained. “I work nights and trying to find a parking spot at 2 o’clock in the morning is almost impossible.”

According to Van Devan, the loss of available parking would affect residents from surrounding areas, including those living in the Briarwood condominiums and all along Park Lane South. Colberg agreed.

“If we lose parking, there’s going to be a domino effect,” he added. “We may not live by the co-ops, but we will be affected if we lose hundreds of parking spaces.”