Woodhaven residents rally against Select Bus Service

Woodhaven residents rally against Select Bus Service
By Mark Hallum

Neighborhood residents and activist groups gathered in Woodhaven Saturday to protest the city Department of Transportation’s new Select Bus Service plan. The route would reconfigure lanes and eliminate left turns at major intersections as well as install bus stops in the median of Woodhaven Boulevard, which opponents fear will create unsafe conditions along the corridor and interrupt flow of traffic.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), state Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven), the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, Maria Thomson of the Business Improvement District, the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, the Task Force for a Better Woodhaven, and the Queens Public Transit Committee all spoke out on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard and blamed not only the unwillingness of DOT to accept resident input on the plan but also the de Blasio administration for not taking an active role in the dispute.

“They could have off-board fare collection, extra-long articulated buses. They could have signal priorities so that buses don’t have to wait at red lights,” said Alex Blenkinsopp, director of the block association and longtime opponent of the plan. He favors adding a bus route along the inactive rail road tracks of the Rockaway Beach Line that would expedite service for commuters and reduce traffic along the boulevard.

“But the only thing that they’re going to do is commit in advance to a plan that’s going to costs hundreds of millions of dollars and raises numerous problems,” Blenkinsopp said.

Protester Charles Jusino said a bus stop in the median would be dangerous because the number of people who gather at the current stop in front of Queens County Savings Bank would crowd out the median where they would be expected to wait in the future.

“When you think of a plan that costs well over $200 million of taxpayer dollars, you need to make sure it’s right for the taxpayer,” Addabbo said. “The long-term effect of this plan has to be taken into consideration.”

Philip McManus, chairman of Queens Public Transit Committee, made the point that traffic patterns will not only become more congested, but they could change altogether to affect residential parts of the neighborhood.

“If you have a glass and you fill it up to the top and you put something else in there, what’s going to happen? It’s going to overflow. And where is it going to go? It’s going to go into your residential streets,” McManus said. “People are going to adapt to this and avoid this roadway, and that’s going to hurt business and your property values.”

Other speakers at the rally cited roll-over traffic accidents, which have involved the median where DOT plans to put the new bus stops, as well as the city neglecting to remove snow around the current stop during the last major storm. Participants in the protests expressed the need for improved transportation along the boulevard, but stood firmly against the city’s Select Bus Service plan.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.