By Patrick Donachie
Community members asked for better options for pedestrians in downtown Jamaica during a public workshop Tuesday sponsored by the city Department of Transportation.
The workshop was held at the Jamaica Center for Art and Learning to gather ideas for the DOT’s streetscape plan on how to improve the business district for residents and commuters.
“We are going to prioritize what we look at from hearing from you,” Erin Maciel, a DOT landscape architect, said.
The DOT’s study area encompasses Jamaica and Archer avenues up to Hillside Avenue, stretching from Sutphin to Merrick Boulevard, and the streetscape study is one of the actions included in the Jamaica NOW Action Plan.
Montgomery Wilkinson, a member of the Jamaica NOW Leadership Council who lives in Locust Manor, said public plazas or small parks for people who live and work in the area would be welcome on Jamaica Avenue.
“They should keep the people in mind, and not just the car traffic,” he said, pointing to areas like Times Square or Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn as places where the city has mitigated excess congestion. “I think Jamaica can be a model in that approach.”
After the presentation, the audience broke into groups dedicated to discussing particular main streets in the study area. In the Archer Avenue session, participants echoed Wilkinson’s concerns. Several people said the area was saturated with buses. More than 50 city and regional bus lines pass through downtown Jamaica, not including the commuter vans that bring people from outlying residential areas to the downtown corridor.
“You look at the Queens bus map and they don’t even have space to list all the lines,” Maciel said, while looking at a map of the downtown area draped across a folding table.
Earl Simons, the director of government and community relations at York College, said pedestrians had little room to walk on sidewalks after leaving station stops at Sutphin Boulevard, where the LIRR and JFK AirTrain are located, as well as Jamaica Center. He pointed toward a photo showing a stretch of Archer Avenue where the sidewalk was partially blocked by parked vehicles.
“We’re just a few minutes away from the LIRR,” he said. “But you walk down Archer from Sutphin and that’s what you meet.”
After collecting community input, the DOT team will prepare design concepts and return in the fall for another workshop to present their ideas. People can input their ideas at nycdotfeedbackportals.nyc/downtown-jamaica/.
The study is scheduled to conclude in the spring of 2017, and
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona