Southeast Queens leaders come out against proposed busways in downtown Jamaica

Southeast Queens elected officiasl are imploring the DOT to get the Merrick Boulevard busway right, before moving forward on two more busways through Downtown Jamaica. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

The city is moving forward with its plans to bring two new busways through downtown Jamaica despite objections from southeast Queens elected officials.

The opposition to the pilot projects on Archer Avenue and Jamaica Avenue comes after months of conversation with the Department of Transportation on the nearby Merrick Boulevard bus lane that leaders rallied against for the accelerated implementation timeline, a lack of safeguards against derelict vehicles stored along the corridor, and the 24-hour lane enforcement, asking instead for rush-hour only within the low-density, transit desert residential community.

Councilman I. Daneek Miller said the community has waited “a long time” for transit investment in southeast Queens, and that the “lack of engagement and outreach” by the DOT has been “disappointing.”

“Given the poor track record of implementation with the nearby Merrick Boulevard Bus Lane, this is something I cannot in good conscience support. These two projects, if done incorrectly, threaten the progress we’ve been able to achieve in revitalizing the heart of our commercial district in downtown Jamaica these past several years,” Miller said. “We are unequivocally saying that we have lost confidence in DOT under the current administration, and we are calling on them to postpone any further projects in southeast Queens until they can truly address the transit and transportation needs of this community, which we suspect won’t be until the next administration.”

State Senator James Sanders and Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman objected to the busway pilots on Jamaica and Archer Avenues, saying the DOT should “slow down and do it right” instead of starting the implementation during the same week that public schools return to in-person learning.

“DOT has also failed to address many outstanding issues such as poor street lighting, ill-fitted two-way streets in dire need of one-way conversion and washed out or missing street signs throughout our districts,” said Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, adding that they will stand against the “ill-advised” program until the DOT addresses the community’s concerns.

The leaders said DOT had reluctantly agreed to modify the 24/7 enforcement along the Merrick Avenue busway, proposing a 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. enforcement period instead.

“DOT has done little to resolve persistent quality-of-life issues on that corridor, and have ignored our request for rush-hour only enforcement even as small businesses and local residents suffer,” state Senator Leroy Comrie said. “Southeast Queens needs transit improvements but it cannot be done without the confidence and support of local residents.”

The DOT said it is moving forward with the busways following extensive outreach in response to the elected officials and community stakeholders.

“Keeping New Yorkers moving is essential to getting our friends and neighbors back to work as New York City’s recovery continues,” DOT spokesman Brian Zumhagen said. “The Archer Avenue busway and Jamaica Avenue busway will speed the commutes of 250,000 daily bus riders through downtown Jamaica. Faster buses increase ridership, reduce congestion and help us cut the emissions driving climate change.”

As far as the Merrick Boulevard busway, DOT has worked with the 103rd and 113th precincts and DSNY to address derelict vehicles and drivers parking and idling in the new bus lanes. At Miller’s request, the agency installed bus lane camera infrastructure and as of early September substantially completed the project.

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