Instead of its usual role of bringing the neighborhood together for a soirée, this year the Forest Hills Gardens Corporation’s (FHGC) annual community meeting served as a forum for a hot button issue within the domain neighborhood affairs: traffic patterns.
Over 200 residents attended the discussion about whether the newly restored Station Square plaza should be limited to pedestrian traffic or not. The participants weighed the safety hazards of the area’s traffic, historical preservation of the square and its accessibility to residents and commuters. The end result? Community members will have to wait and see. The FHGC ultimately said it needs more time and data to decide the future of the square.
“The comments received by the board before, during and after the meeting included differing opinions, concerns and perspectives. We are still receiving calls and emails. We are thoroughly considering all of the feedback, but at this time, we believe we need more information before deciding how to handle the situation, and we do not want to rush into a decision,” Forest Hills Gardens Corporation wrote in a statement the day after the meeting.
According to documents provided to QNS detailing the content of the meeting and the board’s subsequent emails to the community, the FHGC is planning a survey to “better understand the opinions of the entire community” and they are considering hiring a traffic consultant to analyze the plaza’s problems and help generate solutions.
“There are small streets in the vicinity of the square that have taken on a lot of the traffic. So that is a problem that needs to be addressed,” Susanna Hof of Terrace Sotheby’s International Realty, which has two offices at Station Square.
Hof added that after sitting through the meeting, she was convinced that keeping it permanently closed was not an option, but some compromise was more likely.
“There are compromise plans like opening it during the week and having it closed on the weekends, or reducing the size of the area that’s closed. There are a lot of possibilities,” she said.
The people who were most fired up seemed to be those arguing against closing the square, according to Hof. At the meeting, these residents argued that the increase in traffic along the adjacent streets needs relief. Some also mentioned their concerns over inviting the homeless population into the square by closing it to traffic.
This group framed their point of view in a historical preservation framework by arguing that maintaining the original conception of Station Square as a main “vehicular” thoroughfare. However, during the squares opening in 1912, vehicles solely meant horse-drawn carriages.
Those in favor of closing the square made their case primarily out of an appreciation of the architectural design of the square and the safety issues related to pedestrians, many of whom are seniors.
Hof emphasized that the board did fall on either side of this debate. For the moment, their approach is to consider all options. FHGC President Matthew Mandell will speak at the Community Board 6 meeting on June 12 about their plans for the square. The board also can be reached at email@example.com or at 718-268-2420.