An iconic Kew Gardens bridge that’s home to a dozen local businesses may be in trouble after years of neglect, according to a group of local lawmakers.
The Lefferts Boulevard Bridge, located between Austin and Grenfell streets near the Kew Gardens LIRR station, was built over 90 years ago. While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) owns the structure, Long Island-based firm Zee N Kay Management was charged with maintaining the property. Their lease expires in 2020.
Lack of maintenance and repairs at the site have left the bridge in dire disrepair and created an unclear future for the structure and its resident businesses, according to Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal and state Senator Leroy Comrie. Due to its current condition, residents and local businesses owners are concerned the bridge will be sold to developers and demolished instead of rehabilitated.
“Years of delinquency have brought us to this critical juncture,” Comrie said in a statement.
In response, the lawmakers have introduced legislation that would mandate a study to explore all feasible alternatives to demolishing the bridge, as well as the economic impact of each possible action. If passed, the MTA chairman would be mandated to submit a written report to the governor, mayor and state Legislature no later than March 1, 2019.
Last spring, locals part of the “Save Kew Gardens Coalition” began a petition urging the MTA to repair and restore the bridge; it is under 100 signatures away from reaching its 5,000 signature goal. The coalition and multiple supporters who wrote in the comments section cited the commercial strip as “the heart of the neighborhood.”
Rosenthal said the legislation “ensures that [the Kew Gardens] community does not bear the burden for decades of neglect.”
“The MTA has been an irresponsible landlord and is now asking the community to bear the consequences,” he said. “Despite years of complaints raised by our residents, nothing was done to address the hazardous disrepair at this location.”
The unique bridge is lined with commercial buildings on each side, which house a series of mom and pop businesses, including markets and eateries. It is located near the Kew Gardens Cinema, one of the neighborhood’s most iconic landmarks.
Dominick Pistone, president of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, said the organization supports the legislation and is open to working with the MTA.
“Our elected officials understand the importance of this issue to the Kew Gardens community and to keeping the neighborhood livable and desirable,” Pistone said. “We hope the MTA/LIRR will recognize that keeping the stores and restoring the bridges is important to us.”
This is not the first fight to save the bridge from re-development: in 1996, plans emerged to build a high-rise building at the site. The MTA project was canned after receiving strong opposition from locals.
Comrie and Rosenthal’s bills are currently in committee.