‘Fresh Pond Road will become a ghost town’: Board 5 hears concerns on proposed Ridgewood bus lane

Photo: Jacob Kaye/QNS

A local business owner and members of Community Board 5 expressed concerns about a proposed plan to bring a bus lane to Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood during the advisory body’s Wednesday meeting in Middle Village.

“It’s going to kill businesses,” said Giuseppe Palmeri, the owner of Gemelli Jewelers. “Fresh Pond Road will become a ghost town.”

The plan, in its current stage, creates a bus lane on the southbound side of Fresh Pond Road between Metropolitan and Putnam Avenues during the peak ridership hours of 2 to 8 p.m.

The proposed plan was presented to Community Board 5 by Jason Banrey, DOT Queens deputy borough commissioner, Kyle Gebhart, DOT project manager of transit development and Matt Kroll, a representative of the MTA. They indicated that the plans will be altered based on community feedback.

While several board members shared concerns about parking, the impact on traffic and the overall effectiveness of the plan, Palmeri — the sole local business owner in attendance — was most worried for his fellow business owners and their customers.

“All the business owners agree that it’s going to be detrimental to our businesses,” Palmeri said.

Shoppers will have trouble finding parking, Palmeri charged, and, as a result, fewer people will patronize the business along Fresh Pond Road. Any decrease in the number of customers local shops get could be disastrous, he said.

“It’s not like anybody is making a killing,” Palmeri told QNS.

Banrey, Gebhart and Kroll did not directly address Palmeri’s concerns but mentioned that while 70 parking spots will be affected, 61 metered parking spots would be added around Fresh Pond Road during peak hours.

“Parking is at a premium here and that’s something we want to be sensitive to,” Banrey said.

The DOT conceived the plan after studies showed that buses along Fresh Pond Road travel at an average of 3 mph. The average human walks faster.

Additionally, several bus routes converge in the area and cause congestion, which affects all traffic.

Banrey explained that the plan would increase bus speeds by about 22 percent, but Richard Huber, a board member, was not impressed.

“That’s going from 4 mph to 5 mph,” Huber said.

Huber added that while the plan aims to increase bus speeds, it doesn’t address an increase in traffic speeds overall.

“We didn’t talk about the increase of speed with cars,” said Huber.

Banrey mentioned that the plan would end up helping traffic.

“We’re adding another lane that’s dedicated to buses and right turns,” Banrey said. ” So, we’re moving traffic here.”

Banrey and his team said they’ll make alterations to their plan and present a new one at the board’s Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, June 18.

Palmeri worries that despite the DOT’s listening tour, the complaints of business owners like him won’t make a difference.

“We really have no power,” he said.

Update: After this story was published Thursday on QNS, a DOT spokesperson sent a statement countering that Fresh Pond Road businesses would not be negatively affected by the bus lane, if implemented.

“To maintain vehicular access to businesses, DOT has proposed a total of 61 new metered parking spaces on spurs off of Fresh Pond Road that will more than mitigate the loss of 55 metered parking spaces that will be repurposed when bus lane hours are in effect,” the spokesperson stated. “In addition, we have for the first time identified five locations for new truck loading zones that will minimize double-parking and allow businesses to efficiently receive deliveries.”

The DOT will update its plan and speak further about the bus lane at the June 18 Board 5 Transportation Committee meeting before “making a determination on the exact timing of this project later this summer.”

This story was updated on June 13 at 5:55 p.m.