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DOT confirms SBS coming to Woodhaven

Woodhaven Residents Block Association member Vance Barbour asked for the DOT to reconsider how it implements its Select Bus Service plan for Woodhaven Boulevard.
Gabriel Rom
By Gabriel Rom

It’s not a matter of whether Select Bus Service will come to Woodhaven Boulevard but rather when and how.

That much was made clear at a standing-room-only meeting between DOT Queens Commissioner Nicole Garcia and Woodhaven residents, civic leaders and politicians, including state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven). But questions over how much community input the DOT will take into consideration remained unclear.

The special town hall meeting was organized by the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation in partnership with the Woodhaven BID and Woodhaven Residents Block Association.

Concern over both the economic and safety impact from SBS dedicated bus lanes took center stage.

Maria Thomson, executive director of the Woodhaven BID, argued that SBS, which could ban cars from turning left onto Jamaica Avenue, was a threat to the economic viability of the neighborhood and would flood side-streets with traffic.

“Jamaica Avenue would die,” Thomson said. “It’s our biggest property and tax base in this area and if we lose them, then we are really going to lose a lot. This has to be considered very, very carefully.”

Task Force Committee for an Informed and Safer, Better Woodhaven Co-President Jose Vasquez presented photos and videos of current traffic conditions along Woodhaven Boulevard and the neighboring side streets.

“Chaos is already happening in the neighborhood without SBS,” he said.

Under the current plan bus riders would board buses at a median in the center of the Boulevard.

Paul Capocasale, co-president of the task force pointed to an elderly man in the crowd.

“That man has a walker. I don’t want him walking halfway across the road for a bus.”

“This plan is crazy. Period,” he said, staring at Garcia.

For most of the meeting Garcia sat quietly, nodding occasionally, while taking frequent notes as she heard speakers vent their frustrations.

Garcia said the DOT thought it was important to “take time and have some more conversations” during 2016, with the final design to be proposed late in the year. Implementation would begin in 2017.

As part of the dialogue, Garcia said the DOT would redouble its efforts to work with BIDs, civic leaders and local residents.

Alex Blenkinsopp, spokesman for the block association, pushed back.

“Are you going to be collecting feedback on whether to implement SBS rather than how to implement it?”

There was a long pause.

“It’s a question of how,” Garcia said, leaving no doubt that SBS would be coming, in one form or another, to Woodhaven.

“You’re going to be seeing a lot more of me in your neighborhood,” Garcia added.

On specifics, Garcia said that the DOT “hears loud and clear that left turn bans are opposed.”

Placing a busway on the defunct Rockaway Line was repeatedly mentioned as a popular replacement to SBS.

Garcia called the busway an “interesting idea,” and said there “was a discussion to be had, and we’re happy to be part of that conversation.”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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