By Bill Parry
The city’s Department of Transportation is defending its new Select Bus Service route on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards after state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) introduced legislation to require the city to provide alternative parking spaces to make up for those that disappear as a result of SBS and blunt the impact on local businesses.
“Since SBS went into effect on Nov. 12 on Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards, many small businesses along these roadways have found that nearby customer parking spaces have been sacrificed to the bus routes and newly created bus stops,” Addabbo said. “This directly impacts the economic health of our community and the local companies that are the foundation of our local business areas. If customers can’t get to these stores owing to an elimination of parking, they will certainly decide to take their business elsewhere — therefore placing our stores in jeopardy.”
Under Addabbo’s plan, when parking is eliminated under an SBS or other capital project, the city would be required to hold a public hearing to solicit community input and consider alternate parking sites, prior to the elimination of any existing parking spaces.
“I worked with city legislation, which required that alternate green space must be found when parkland is taken for other uses,” said Addabbo, who was the chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Parks during his tenure there. “If we can take action to prevent our rare green spaces from being lost to development, we can also find a way to ensure that customer access to our local merchants isn’t sacrificed to municipal projects.”
The DOT called SBS a key innovation to accommodate explosive growth in the borough.
“SBS on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards is providing more than 40,000 daily bus riders with faster, more reliable connections to subways, the Long Island Rail Road, and over 20 bus routes on one of the borough’s major north-south corridors,” a DOT spokesman said. “It is also giving those 40,000 commuters more efficient connections to the local businesses where they shop and work, as is the case on SBS routes across the city.”
The DOT is also defending its community outreach prior to the program’s implementation.
“While planning for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, DOT engaged in an extensive three-year process beginning in 2014. This process allowed DOT and MTA to shape the concept design with extensive input from communities in Queens,” the DOT spokesman said. “The detailed design plans reflect the feedback received at more than 50 meetings, among them community boards, open houses, workshops, community advisory committees and with many elected officials. We presented detailed block-by-block designs at open houses along the corridor in 2016 to get additional feedback. After those open houses, DOT and MTA also met with neighborhood groups and community boards that requested opportunities to look at specific areas in greater detail.”
Addabbo is pushing forward with his legislation, and state Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) will introduce a companion bill in the lower house. DOT said it has worked with elected officials and business owners to identify and restore parking in areas where feasible.
“DOT also surveyed all of the more than 350 businesses along the corridor to discuss their concerns, and more than half responded to our survey,” the spokesman said. “We have worked very closely with merchants and will continue to do so, and we hope improved bus ridership will bring them new customers, as we have seen along other SBS corridors. We remain open to making adjustment to the project to make SBS on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards as successful as possible.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr