BY SUZANNE MONTEVERDI
Woodhaven residents and their elected officials have spoken: the Select Bus Service (SBS) plan for Woodhaven Boulevard needs some serious revision.
The proposal highlighted the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting on Saturday afternoon. Attendees raised concerns regarding the plan as it is currently being presented include the placement of pedestrians waiting for the bus on medians; a potential ban on left turns off of Woodhaven Boulevard onto busy venues such as Jamaica Avenue; and an increase in traffic congestion due to the designation of bus only lanes.
“We know we need improved transportation in southern Queens,” said state Senator Joseph Addabbo. “This is a project that I think in the long-term, when we talk about it long term, it’s going to affect our quality of life.”
For Addabbo, as well as many other attendees, the root of the issue lies within the DOT’s lack of individualized attention, stating that the department has not taken a personalized approach to its proposed plans for southern Queens streets.
“Let’s not kid ourselves. Commissioner [Polly] Trottenberg from DOT will tell us that the SBS has been accepted in other places and it’s been embraced and people love it, and that may be true,” said Addabbo. “But [the] areas in the Bronx and where-have-you is not Woodhaven Boulevard. It’s not Woodhaven. It’s not Ozone Park. It’s not Howard Beach. It’s not Myrtle Avenue in Glendale.”
City Councilman Eric Ulrich also took time to speak about SBS and his initial feelings toward the project.
“I was a very early and vocal supporter of Select Bus Service. I thought that it had tremendous potential to bring meaningful changes to Woodhaven Boulevard,” said Ulrich.
After the proposal was revealed, however, Ulrich, like much of the community, arrived at a different conclusion.
“The biggest disappointment that I have with SBS is that DOT did not do a very good job of engaging the community and listening to the community,” he remarked. “And, by the way, the partial implementation that they’ve already put on Woodhaven Boulevard, so far, in my opinion, has been a disaster.”
That comment was immediately met with applause and vocal affirmation from attendees.
“We’re all saying the same thing,” he continued. “But we want to work with the city agencies to come up with a plan that works for everybody. And I do think that we can come up with that plan. But it doesn’t happen from the top down. It has to happen from the bottom up.”
WRBA President Martin Colberg pointed out that certain members of the community have submitted their ideas to the DOT but did not hear a response.
“Ideas were presented,” he said. “But it’s like anything else kinda when you give it to a city agency, it’s forced to the backside, because they look at it more like, ‘Well who are you? We’re the experts.’ They may be the experts behind a computer, but feet on the ground? We’re the experts. We’re here every day.”
Alexander Blenkinsopp, the WRBA’s communication’s director, asked attendees to visit SaveOurStreets.nyc, a website aimed at informing the community on how currently proposed SBS plans would affect the area.
Blenkinsopp urged community members to sign a petition on the website, which states that elements of the current plan are “unwanted,” and asks that the DOT reconsider these parts of its proposal.
“If you want alternatives explored before they push for this, if you want them to gather community input, if you want them not to say ‘6,000 people signed a petition in favor of SBS,’ which is untrue: we need our numbers on our side.”