By Mark Hallum
The introduction of Select Bus Service to Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards has been hotly contested by the residents of southern Queens since the city Department of Transportation announced the service change in December 2015. Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, officially announced the launch would proceed this spring.
The detractors have been outspoken in their opposition to the plan, claiming the reconfiguration of corridors and stops is dangerous for riders and will worsen already hemorrhaging traffic conditions through the neighborhood. But the mayor has included the introduction of the bus service and the subsequent rebuilds to curbs and bus stops in his Vision Zero initiative following the winter thaw.
“Dangerous street have to change,” de Blasio said. “We want to get the word out: We’re moving lanes, adding new space for pedestrians and making it safer to cross intersections–all to keep your family safe. These changes have helped make each of the last three years under Vision Zero safer at last.”
Mayor de Blasio announced the SBS plan would launch would proceed as part of a series of improvements across the city as the weather warms.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at a news conference March 21 that the SBS plan might fall victim to a cut in funding from the federal government as a result of the President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.
“I think there are a couple of areas that the president’s budget singles out,” Trottenberg said. “One is the TIGER grants that as the mayor said have been a source of support for Vision Zero and other projects here in New York. The second is what is called the New Starts programs, which is new capital grants, and as you have seen in the news, that potentially could affect the Gateway Tunnel, the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway, and the bigger capital buildout of our Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service project.”
The route will 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 the flow of traffic.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) has been active in opposing the plan alongside his constituents.
“My district needs to see an improvement in transportation opportunities. However, the plans being put forth by MTA and NYC Department of Transportation create many short and long-term issues for my constituents,” Addabbo said. “I firmly oppose plans for Select Bus Service along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards until all issues, including those involving safety and local business, are addressed.”
Resident Charles Jusino, who spoke at an August demonstration against SBS, 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.
Philip McManus, chairman of the Queens Public Transit Committee, said the 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’s failure to remove snow around the current stop during Snowstorm Jonas.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall